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« A work to be welcomed as a valuable addition to the literature of 
folk-lore and mythology; taken down, for the most part, from oral 
communications with the peasantry.' — Scotsman. 

* Few nations have a folk-lore so rich and imaginative as that of 
the Irish. Lady Wilde has studied it conscientiously, and is so well 
acquainted with the origins of her subject, that the perusal of her book 
is no less instructive than pleasing.' — Morning Post. 

'An important contribution to the literature of Ireland and the 
world's stock of folk-lore.' — Evening Mail. 

' Lady Wilde's book will be welcome either to the professed student 
of Irish antiquity or to the more general reader who finds delight in 
fascinating folk-tales delightfully recorded.' — Westminster Review. 

' Told with power as well as with simplicity. ... a very interesting 
and readable collection of folk-lore. '—Graphic. 

'Lady Wilde's book is delightful. . . . Amongst those best 
acquainted with Irish folk-lore, legends, and mysteries, we believe 
few will be found capable of adding many words to pages which could 
only have been filled by an Irish woman lovingly treating such a 
subject. 5 — Vanity Fair. 

' Those who care for legendary reading will find in this volume a 
source of much enjoyment.' — Northern Whig. 

' The myths and legends are all of deep interest and value.' 


Crown 8vo. cloth, fs. 6d. 


or, The Drolls, Traditions, and Superstitions of Old Cornwall. 

Collected and Edited by Robert Hunt, F.R.S* 

With Illustrations by George Cruikshank. 

London : CHATTO & WINDUS, in St. Martin's Lane, W.C. 















Introduction ....»». 1 

The Horned Women . , , 


The Legend op Ballytowtas Castle 

. 12 

A Wolf Story .... 


The Evil Eye 

. 20 

The Stolen Bride , 


Fairy Music * 

. 29 

The Fairy Dance 


Fairy Justice 

. 32 

The Priest's Soul , 


The Fairy Eace 

, 87 

The Trial by Fire c 


The Lady Witch 

. 41 

Ethna the Bride 


The Fairies' Eevenge 

• 46 

Fairy Help — the Phouka 


The Farmer Punished 

. 49 

The Farmer's Wife 


The Midnight Eide . 

. 53 

The Leprehaun .... 


The Legends of the Western Islands 

. 59 

The Bride's Death-Song 


The Child's Dream . . • 

. 62 

The Fairy Child 


The Doom .... 


The Clearing from Guilt 


The Holy Well and the Murderer 


Legends of Innis-Sark — a Woman's Curse 


Legends of the Dead in the Western Island 


> 75 

The Death Sign . 


Kathleen • 


November Eve • 


The Dance of the Dead . . . 


Superstitions concerning the Dead ♦ 


The Fatal Love-Charm . 


The Fenian Knishts 




Rathlin Island ...» * 

. 86 

The Strange Guests , , . , 


The Dead Soldier . 

. 87 

The Three Gifts . 


The Fairies as Fallen Angels 

. 89 

The Fairy Changeling . 


Fairy Wiles ...... 

. 91 

Shatjn-Mor ...... 


The Cave Fairies — 

The Tuatha-de-Danann , , , 

. 93 

Edain the Queen . . , , 


The Royal Steed .... 

. 95 

Evil Spells — 

Cathal the King . * . . , 


The Poet's Malediction 

. 99 

Drimial Agus Thorial , . , 


An Irish Adept of the Islands . . 8 

. 100 

The May Festival . . „ , « 


May-Day Superstitions ...» 

9 106 

Festivals — 

Candlemas , , 


Whitsuntide ..... 

s 108 

Whitsuntide Legend of the Fairy Horses . 


November Spells ..... 

. 109 

November Eve ....,» 


A Terrible Revenge .... 

. 112 

Midsummer — 

The Baal Fires and Dances , B » 


The Fairy Doctress . 

. 114 

Marriage Rites , 


The Dead ...... 

. H7 

The Wake Orgies . 


The Ancient Mysteries .... 

. 123 

The Power of The Word . 


The Poet and the King .... 

. 130 

The Sidhe Race ...... 


Music ....... 

. 133 

Poet Inspiration — Eodain the Poetess . , 


The Banshee ...... 

. 135 

Queen Maeve ...... 


Death Signs ...... 

. 138 

The Hartpole Doom . 


Superstitions , 

. 140 

The Fairy Rath . 


Fairy Nature . 

. 142 

Irish Nature ...... 




Concerning Dogs • . . 

. 146 

Concerning Cats .... 


The King of the Cats .... 

. 153 

The Demon Cat .... 


Cat Nature ..... 

. 156 

Seanchan the Bard and the King of the Cats 


The Bards ...... 

. 163 

King Arthur and the Cat 


Concerning Cows ..... 

. 168 

Fairy Wiles . . . . 


The Dead Hand ..... 

. 172 

The Wicked Widow . • • . 


The Butter Mystery • • • 

. 175 

Concerning Birds — 

The Magpie • • • • 


The Wren ..... 

. 177 

The Raven and Water Wagtail . . 


The Cuckoo and Robin Redbreast . . 

. 177 

Concerning Living Creatures — 

The Cricket .... 


The Beetle ..... 

. 178 

The Hare ..... 


The Weasel . 

. 179 

The Properties op Herbs and their Use in Medicine 


A Love Potion . 

. 185 

Love Dreams 

t • 


To Cause Love . 

. 185 

Medical Superstitions and Ancient Charms 




Against Sorrow . 

■ 188 

To Win Love 




For the Night Fire (the Fever) 

, 189 

For a Pain in the Side 




For the Measles . , , 


For the Mad Fever 




Against Enemies • 

. 190 

To Extract a Thorn 




To Cause Hatred between Lovers 


For Love .... 




How to have Money Always . 


For the Great Worm 




For Sore Eyes , , • 



Medical Superstitions and Ancient Charms— (co7itimied) 

For Pains in the Body , 192 

Against Drowning . # « . . 192 

In Time of Battle 192 

For the Bed Hash . . . . .193 

To Tame a Horse ..... 193 

A very Ancient Charm against Wounds or Poisons . 193 

For a Sore Breast . . . . . 193 

For a Wound ...... 194 

For the Evil Eye 194 

For St. Anthony's Fire . , . . ,194 

How to go Invisible » • • • 194 
For Pains ...... 194 

For a Sprain , , . 195 
To Cause Love ...... 195 

For the Bite of a Mad Dog 195 

For Toothache . . . . . .196 

For Freckles . .... 196 

For a Burn . . . , , . 197 

For the Memory . . . , , 197 

For the Falling Sickness . 197 

For Chin-Cough 197 

For Eheumatism , 198 

For a Stye on the Eyelid . 198 

To Cure Warts . . , . . .198 

For a Stitch in the Side 198 

For Weak Eyes . . , , ,198 

For Water on the Brain . , . , 199 

For Hip Disease • * • • • 199 

For the Mumps • • • • 199 

For Epilepsy ...... 199 

For Depression of Heart . • • .^ 200 

For the Fairy Dart . . . * .200 

Various Superstitions and Cures . • • 200 

To find Stolen Goods . . . . .207 

A Prayer against the Plague . , , 207 

A Blessing . . . . . .207 

A Cure for Cattle ..... 207 

A Charm for Safety . . . . .208 

An Elixir of Potency . ... 208 

For the Bite of a Mad Dog . . . .208 

Dreams ...«•« 208 
Fairy Doctors ...... 209 

Charms by Crystals * 209 

Alectromania . • • • * .210 

Fairy Power . 210 

Omens and Superstitions . • • • 211 

That Forbode Evil 211 

To Attract Bees . 213 





Concerning the Dead . • 

• • 

. 213 

The Coastguard's Fate . 

• » i 


Eelics , 

• • 

• 214 


St. Patrick 


The Well of the Book . 

. 216 

St. Patrick and the Serpent 

• . i 


St. Patrick and the Princesses . 

. 217 

The Poison Cup , 

. • i 


Divination . , , 

. 217 

The Blind Poet 

» . i 


The Story of Breccan . . 

. 218 

Bardic Privileges . , 

• • • 


St. Ciaron .... 

. 220 

St. Martin • . . 

• • i 


St. Bridget . . . . 

. 222 

St. Kieran . . , 

• • . 


St. Kevin . . . 

. 223 

Christian Legends • . 

• • 


Swearing Stones and Relics — 

The Cremave . 

. 225 

Eelics for clearing from Guilt 

* • i 


Innis-Murry , ,. 

. 227 


The Evil Stroke 

. • * 


The Changeling . . , 

, # 

. 229 

The Fairy Doctor . , 

• • a 


The Poet's Spell . . . 

• • 

. 233 

Charm for the Fairy Stroke . 

• • I 


The Farmer's Fate • . . 

• • 

• 234 

The Fairy Bath . . . 




The Holy Wells 

• • • 


The White Stones 

. 237 

The Sacred Trout . 

. . • 


St. Augustine's "Well . . 

. 238 

The Grilled Trout , . 

• • • 


Legend of Neal-mor . . . 

. 239 

St. John's Well . 

. • • 


The Well of Fionn Ma-Coul , 

. 240 

St. Seenan's Well . • 

• • ■ 


Kil-na-Greina . . , 

• 241 

The Well of Worship . 





The Bride's Well « • . , 

• 243 

The Irish Fakir . . . , , 



Sacred Trees • . • • 

. 246 

Tober-na-Dara , . . . 


Lough Neagh ..... 

. 247 

The Doctor and the Fairy Princess . 



A Holy Well ... * 

• 250 

A Sacred Island. . • . . 



The Lake op Eevenge , . 

. 251 

Scenes at a Holy Well , , , 


Lough Foyle ..... 

. 252 

The Hen's Castle , 


Sliabh-Mish, County Kerry . . , 

. 254 

The Skelligs op Kerry . 



The Sidiie Race ..♦.,, 
The Hurling Match ...,,, 

The Eide with the Fairies • . . . 

The Fairy Spy ..•,„, 

The Dark Horseman • . • • . 

Sheela-na-Skean ....,, 
Captain Webb, the Eobber Chief . . # 

The Mayo Captain and Feenish the Mare 

The Bardic Eace ...... 

The Ancient Eace . • • , . 

The Antiquities op Ireland • . • . 

Early Irish Art . • • . • 

Our Ancient Capital . . . . 







The three great sources of knowledge respecting the shrouded part 
of humanity are the language, the mythology, and the ancient 
monuments of a country. 

Prom the language one learns the mental and social height to 
which a nation had reached at any given period in arts, habits, 
and civilization, with the relation of man to man, and to the 
material and visible world. 

The mythology of a people reveals their relation to a spiritual 
and invisible world; while the early monuments are solemn and 
eternal symbols of religious faith — rituals of stone in cromlech, 
pillar, shrine and tower, temples and tombs. 

The written word, or literature, comes last, the fullest and 
highest expression of the intellect and culture, and scientific 
progress of a nation. 

The Irish race were never much indebted to the written word. 
The learned class, the ollamhs, dwelt apart and kept their knowledge 
sacred. The people therefore lived entirely upon the traditions 
of their forefathers, blended with the new doctrines taught by 
Christianity ; so that the popular belief became, in time, an amalgam 
of the pagan myths and the Christian legend, and these two 
elements remain indissolubly united to this day. The world, in 
fact, is a volume, a serial rather, going on for six thousand years, 
but of which the Irish peasant has scarcely yet turned the first 

The present work deals only with the mythology, or the fantastic 
creed of the Irish respecting the invisible world — strange and 
mystical superstitions, brought thousands of years ago from their 
Aryan home, but which still, even in the present time, affect all 
the modes of thinking and acting in the daily life of the people. 


Amongst the educated classes in all nations, the belief in the 
supernatural, acting directly on life and constantly interfering 
with the natural course of human action, is soon dissipated and 
gradually disappears, for the knowledge of natural laws solves many 
mysteries that were once inexplicable ; yet much remains unsolved, 
even to the philosopher, of the mystic relation between the material 
and the spiritual world. Whilst to the masses—the uneducated 
— who know nothing of the fixed eternal laws of nature, every 
phenomenon seems to result from the direct action of some non- 
human power, invisible though ever present ; able to confer all 
benefits, yet implacable if offended, and therefore to be propitiated. 

The superstition, then, of the Irish peasant is the instinctive 
belief in the existence of certain unseen agencies that influence 
all human life; and with the highly sensitive organization of 
their race, it is not wonderful that the people live habitually 
under the shadow and dread of invisible powers which, whether 
working for good or evil, are awful and mysterious to the uncul- 
tured mind that sees only the strange results produced by certain 
forces, but knows nothing of approximate causes. 

Many of the Irish legends, superstitions, and ancient charms 
now collected were obtained chiefly from oral communications 
made by the peasantry themselves, either in Irish or in the Irish- 
English which preserves so much of the expressive idiom of the 
antique tongue. 

These narrations were taken down by competent persons skilled in 
both languages, and as far as possible in the very words of the 
narrator; so that much of the primitive simplicity of the style 
has been retained, while the legends have a peculiar and special 
value as coming direct from the national heart. 

In a few years such a collection would be impossible, for the 
old race is rapidly passing away to other lands, and in the vast 
working-world of America, with all the new influences of light 
and progress, the young generation, though still loving the land 
of their fathers, will scarcely find leisure to dream over the fairy- 
haunted hills and lakes and raths of ancient Ireland. 

I must disclaim, however, all desire to be considered a melan- 
choly Laudatrix temporis acti. These studies of the Irish past 
are simply the expression of my love for the beautiful island that 
gave me my first inspiration, my quickest intellectual impulses, 
and the strongest and best sympathies with genius and country 
possible to a woman's nature. 




The ancient legends of all nations of the world, on which from 
age to age the generations of man have been nurtured, bear so 
striking a resemblance to each other that we are led to believe 
there was once a period when the whole human family was of 
one creed and one language. But with increasing numbers came 
the necessity of dispersion ; and that ceaseless migration was 
commenced of the tribes of the earth from the Eastern cradle of 
their race which has now continued for thousands of years with 
undiminished activity. 

From the beautiful Eden-land at the head of the Persian Gulf, 
where creeds and culture rose to life, the first migrations emanated, 
and were naturally directed along the line of the great rivers, by 
the Euphrates and the Tigris and southward by the Nile; and 
there the first mighty cities of the world were built, and the first 
mighty kingdoms of the East began to send out i colonies to take 
possession of the unknown silent world around them. From 
Persia, Assyria, and Egypt, to Greece and the Isles of the Sea, 
went forth the wandering tribes, carrying with them, as signs of 
their origin, broken fragments of the primal creed, and broken 
idioms of the primal tongue — those early pages in the history of 
the human race, eternal and indestructible, which hundreds of 
centuries have not been able to obliterate from the mind of man. 

But as the early tribes diverged from the central parent stock, 
the creed and the language began to assume new forms, according 
as new habits of life and modes of thought were developed 
amongst the wandering people, by the influence of climate and 
the contemplation of new and striking natural phenomena in the 
lands where they found a resting-place or a home. Still, amongst 
all nations a basis remained of the primal creed and language, 
easily to be traced through all the mutations caused by circum- 
stances in human thought, either by higher culture or by the 
debasement to which both language and symbols are subjected 
amongst rude and illiterate tribes. 

To reconstruct the primal creed and language of humanity 


from these scattered and broken fragments, is the task which is 
now exciting so keenly the energies of the ardent and learned 
ethnographers of Europe ; as yet, indeed, with but small success 
as regards language, for not more, perhaps, than twenty words 
which the philologists consider may have belonged to the original 
tongue have been discovered; that is, certain objects or ideas 
are found represented in all languages by the same words, and 
therefore the philologist concludes that these words must have 
been associated with the ideas from the earliest dawn of language ; 
and as the words express chiefly the relations of the human family 
to each other, they remained fixed in the minds of the wandering 
tribes, untouched and unchanged by all the diversities of their 
subsequent experience of life. 

Meanwhile, in Europe there is diligent study of the ancient 
myths, legends, and traditions of the world, in order to extract 
from them that information respecting the early modes of thought 
prevalent amongst the primitive race, and also the lines of the 
first migrations, which no other monuments of antiquity are so 
well able to give. Traditions, like rays of light, take their colour 
from the medium through which they pass; but the scientific 
mythographic student knows how to eliminate the accidental 
addition from the true primal basis, which remains fixed and 
unchangeable ; and from the numerous myths and legends of the 
nations of the earth, which bear so striking a conformity to each 
other that they point to a common origin, he will be able to 
reconstruct the first articles of belief in the creed of humanity, 
and to pronounce almost with certainty upon the primal source of 
the lines of human life that now traverse the globe in all 
directions. This source of all life, creed, and culture now on earth, 
there is no reason to doubt, will be found in Iran, or Persia as we 
call it, and in the ancient legends and language of the great 
Iranian people, the head and noblest type of the Aryan races. 
Endowed with splendid physical beauty, noble intellect, and a 
rich musical language, the Iranians had also a lofty sense of the 
relation between man and the spiritual world. They admitted no 
idols into their temples ; their God was the One Supreme Creator 
and Upholder of all things, whose symbol was the sun and the 
pure, elemental fire. But as the world grew older and more 
wicked the pure primal doctrines were obscured by human fancies, 
the symbol came to be worshipped in place of the God, and the 
debased idolatries of Babylon, Assyria, and the Canaanite nations 
were the result. Egypt — grave, wise, learned, mournful Egypt — 
retained most of the primal truth ; but truth was held by the 
priests as too precious for the crowd, and so they preserved it 
carefully for themselves and their own caste. They alone knew 
the ancient and cryptic meaning of the symbols; the people were 
allowed only to see the outward and visible sign. 


From Egypt, philosophy, culture, art, and religion came to 
Greece, but the Greeks moulded these splendid elements after 
their own fashion, and poured the radiance of beauty over the 
grave and gloomy mysticism of Egypt. Everything hideous, 
terrible, and revolting was banished from the Greek Mythology. 
The Greeks constructed no theory of a devil, and believed in no 
hell, as a distinct and eternal abode for the lost souls of men. 
The Greek gods were divinely beautiful, and each divinity in turn 
was ready to help the mortal that invoked him. The dead in 
Hades mourned their fate because they could no longer enjoy the 
glorious beauty of life, but no hard and chilling dogmas doomed 
them there to the tortures of eternal punishment. Earth, air, the 
heavens and the sea, the storms and sunshine, the forests and 
flowers and the purple grapes with which they crowned a god, 
were all to the Greek poet-mind the manifestations of an all- 
pervading spiritual power and life. A sublime Pantheism was 
their creed, that sees gods in everything, yet with one Supreme 
God over all. Freedom, beauty, art, light, and joy, were the 
elements of the Greek religion, while the Eternal Wisdom, the 
Great Athene of the Parthenon, was the peculiar and selected 
divinity of their own half divine race. 

Meanwhile other branches of the primal Iranian stock were 
spreading over the savage central forests of Europe, where they 
laid the foundation of the great Teuton and Gothic races, the 
destined world-rulers; but Nature to them was a gloomy and 
awful mother, and life seemed an endless warfare against the 
fierce and powerful elemental demons of frost and snow and dark- 
ness, by whom the beautiful Sun-god was slain, and who reigned 
triumphant in that fearful season when the earth was iron and the 
air was ice, and no beneficent God seemed near to help. Hideous 
idols imaged these unseen powers, who were propitiated by 
sanguinary rites ; and the men and the god they fashioned were 
alike as fierce and cruel as the wild beasts of the forest, and the 
aspects of the savage nature around them. 

Still the waves of human life kept rolling westward until they 
surged over all the lands and islands of the Great Sea, and the 
wandering mariners, seeking new homes, passed through the 
Pillars of Hercules out into the Western Ocean, and coasting 
along by the shores of Spain and France, founded nations that 
still bear the impress of their Eastern origin, and are known in 
history as the Celtic race; while the customs, usages, and 
traditions which their forefathers had learnt in Egypt or Greece 
were carefully preserved by them, and transmitted as heirlooms 
to the colonies they founded. From Spain the early mariners 
easily reached the verdant island of the West in which we Irish 
are more particularly interested. And here in our beautiful 
Ireland the hrt wave of the great Iranian migration finally 



settled, Further progress was impossible — the tmknown ocean 
seemed to them the limits of the world. And thus the wanderers 
of the primal race, with their fragments of the ancient creed and 
mythic poet-lore, and their peculiar dialect of the ancient tongue, 
formed, as it were, a sediment here which still retains its peculiar 
affinity with the parent land — though the changes and chances of 
three thousand years have swept over the people, the legends, and 
the language. It is, therefore, in Ireland, above all, that the 
nature and origin of the primitive races of Europe should be 
studied. Even the form of the Celtic head shows a decided 
conformity to that of the Greek races, while it differs essentially 
from the Saxon and Gothic types. This is one of the many proofs 
in support of the theory that the Celtic people in their westward 
course to the Atlantic travelled by the coasts of the Mediterranean, 
as all along that line the same cranial formation is found. Philo- 
logists also affirm that the Irish language is nearer to Sanskrit 
than any other of the living and spoken languages of Europe ; 
while the legends and myths of Ireland can be readily traced to 
the far East, but have nothing in common with the fierce and 
weird superstitions of Northern mythology. 

This study of legendary lore, as a foundation for the history of 
humanity, is now recognized as such an important branch of eth- 
nology that a journal entirely devoted to comparative mythology 
has been recently started in Paris, to which all nations are invited 
to contribute — Sclaves, Teutons, and Celts, Irish legends being 
considered specially important, as containing more of the primitive 
elements than those of other Western nations. All other coun- 
tries have been repeatedly overwhelmed by alien tribes and 
peoples and races, but the Irish have remained unchanged, and in 
place of adopting readily the usages of invaders they have shown 
such remarkable powers of fascination that the invaders them- 
selves became Hibernicis i$>sis Hiberniores. The Danes held the 
east coast of Ireland for three hundred years, yet there is no trace 
of Thor or Odin or the Frost Giants, or of the Great World- 
serpent in Irish legend ; but if we go back in the history of the 
world to the beginning of things, when the Iranian people were 
the only teachers of humanity, we come upon the true ancient 
source of Irish legend, and find that the original materials have 
been but very slightly altered, while amongst other nations the 
ground-work has been overlaid with a dense palimpsest of their 
own devising, suggested by their peculiar local surroundings. 

Amongst the earliest religious symbols of the world are the 
Tree, the Woman, and the Serpent — memories, no doubt, of the 
legend of Paradise ; and the reverence for certain sacred trees has 
prevailed in Persia from the most ancient times, and become 
diffused among all the Iranian nations. It was the custom in Iran 
to hang costly garments on the branches as votive offerings ; and 


it is recorded that Xerxes before going to battle invoked victory by 
the Sacred Tree, and hung jewels and rich robes on the boughs. 
And the poet Saadi narrates an anecdote concerning trees which 
has the true Oriental touch of mournful suggestion : — He was 
once, he says, the guest of a very rich old man who had a son 
remarkable for his beauty. One night the old man said to him, 
" During my whole life I never had but this son. Near this place 
is a Sacred Tree to which men resort to offer up their petitions. 
Many nights at the foot of this tree I besought God until He 
bestowed on me this son." Not long after Saadi overheard this 
young man say in a low voice to his friend, " How happy should 
I be to know where that Sacred Tree grows, in order that I might 
implore God for the death of my father." 

The poorer class in Persia, not being able to make offerings of 
costly garments, are in the habit of tying bits of coloured stuffs on 
the boughs, and these rags are considered to have a special virtue 
in curing diseases. The trees are often near a well or by a saint's 
grave, and are then looked upon as peculiarly sacred. 

This account might have been written for Ireland, for the belief 
and the ceremonial are precisely similar, and are still found exist- 
ing to this day both in Iran and in Erin. But all trees were 
not held sacred — only those that bore no eatable fruit that could 
nourish men ; a lingering memory of the tree of evil fruit may 
have caused this prejudice, while the Tree of I^ife was eagerly 
sought for, with its promised gift of immortality. ~ In Persia the 
plane-tree was specially reverenced; in Egypt, the palm; in 
Greece, the wild olive ; and the oak amongst the Celtic nations. 
Sometimes small tapers were lit amongst the branches, to simulate 
by fire the presence of divinity. It is worthy of note, while on 
the subject of Irish and Iranian affinities, that the old Persian 
word for tree is dar, and the Irish call their sacred tree, the oak, 

The belief in a race of supernatural beings, midway between 
man and the Supreme God, beautiful and beneficent, a race that 
had never known the weight of human life, was also part of the 
creed of the Iranian people. They called them Peris, or Feroiiers 
(fairies); and they have some pretty legends concerning the 
beautiful Dukhtari Shah Peridn, the " Daughter of the King of the 
Fairies," for a sight of whose beauty men pine away in vain desire, 
but if it is granted to them once to behold her, they die. Every 
nation believes in the existence of these mysterious spirits, with 
mystic and powerful influence over human life and actions, but each 
nation represents them differently, according to national habits and 
national surroundings. Thus, the Russians believe in the phantom 

* The terms Dryad and Druid may be compared as containing the same 
root and reference. 


of the Ukraine ; a beautiful young girl robed in white, who meets 
the wanderer on the lonely snow steppes, and lulls him by her 
kisses into that fatal sleep from which he never more awakens. 
The legends of the Scandinavians, also, are all set in the frame- 
work of their own experiences ; the rending and crash of the ice is 
the stroke of the god Thor's hammer ; the rime is the beard of the 
Frost Giant; and when Balder, their Sun-god, is beginning to die 
at Midsummer, they kindle pine-branches to light him on his 
downward path to hell ; and when he is returning to the upper 
world, after the winter solstice, they burn the Yule-log, and hang 
lights on the fir-trees to illuminate his upward path. These 
traditions are a remnant of the ancient sun worship, but the 
peasants who kindle the Baal fires at Midsummer, and the upper 
classes who light up the brilliant Christmas-tree, have forgotten 
the origin of the custom, though the world-old symbol and usage 
is preserved. 

The Sidhe, or Fairies, of Ireland, still preserve all the gentle 
attributes of their ancient Persian race, for in the soft and equable 
climate of Erin there were no terrible manifestations of nature to 
be symbolized by new images ; and the genial, laughter-loving 
elves were in themselves the best and truest expression of Irish 
nature that could have been invented. The fairies loved music 
and dancing and frolic ; and, above all things, to be let alone, 
and not to be interfered with as regarded their peculiar fairy 
habits, customs, and pastimes. They had also, like the Irish, a 
fine sense of the right and just, and a warm love for the liberal 
hand and kindly word. All the solitudes of the island w r ere 
peopled by these bright, happy, beautiful beings, and to the Irish 
nature, with its need of the spiritual, its love of the vague, mystic, 
dreamy, and supernatural, there was something irresistibly fas- 
>?cinating in the belief that gentle spirits were around, filled with 
sympathy for the mortal who suffered wrong or needed help. But 
the fairies were sometimes wilful and capricious as children, and 
>i took dire revenge if any one built over their fairy circles, or 
; looked at them when combing their long yellow hair in the sun- 
shine, or dancing in the woods, or floating on the lakes. Death 
was the penalty to all who approached too near, or pried too 
curiously into the mysteries of nature. 

To the Irish peasant earth and air were filled with these mys- 
terious beings, half -loved, half-feared by them ; and therefore they 
were propitiated by flattery, and called " the good people," as the 
Greeks call the dread goddesses "the Eumenides." Their voices 
were heard in the mountain echo, and their forms seen in the 
purple and golden mountain mist; they whispered amidst the 
perfumed hawthorn branches ; the rush of the autumn leaves was 
the scamper of little elves — red, yellow, and brown — wind- 
delven, and dancing in their glee; and the bending of the waving 


barley was caused "by the flight of the Elf King and his Court 
across the fields. They danced with soundless feet, and their step 
was so light that the drops of dew they danced on only trembled, 
but did not break. The fairy music was low and sweet, " blinding 
sweet," like that of the great god Pan by the river ; they lived 
only on the nectar in the cups of the flowers, though in their fairy 
palaces sumptuous banquets were offered to the mortals they 
carried off — but woe to the mortal who tasted of fairy food j to 
eat was fatal. All the evil in the world has come by eating ; if 
Eve had only resisted that apple our race might still be in Paradise. 
The Sidhe look with envy on the beautiful young human children, 
and steal them when they can ; and the children of a Sidhe and a 
mortal mother are reputed to grow up strong and powerful, but 
with evil and dangerous natures. There is also a belief that every 
seven years the fairies are obliged to deliver up a victim to the 
Evil One, and to save their own people they try to abduct some 
beautiful young mortal girl, and her they hand over to the Prince 
of Darkness. 

Dogmatic religion and science have long since killed the mytho- 
poetic faculty in cultured Europe. It only exists now, naturally 
and instinctively, in children, poets, and the childlike races, like 
the Irish — simple, joyous, reverent, and unlettered, and who have 
remained unchanged for centuries, walled round by their language 
from the rest of Europe, through which separating veil science, 
culture, and the cold mockery of the sceptic have never yet 

Christianity was readily accepted by the Irish. The pathetic 
tale of the beautiful young Virgin-Mother and the Child-God, for 
central objects, touched all the deepest chords of feeling in the 
tender, loving, and sympathetic Irish heart. The legends of 
ancient times were not overthrown by it, however, but taken up 
and incorporated with the new Christian faith. The holy wells 
and the sacred trees remained, and were even made holier by 
association with a saint's name. And to this day the old 
mythology holds its ground with a force and vitality untouched 
by any symptoms of weakness or decay. The Greeks, who are of 
the same original race as our people, rose through the influence of 
the highest culture to the fulness and perf ectness of eternal youth ; 
but the Irisfi, without culture, are eternal children, with all the 
childlike instincts of superstition still strong in them, and capable 
of believing all things, because to doubt requires knowledge. 
They t never, like the Greeks, attained to the conception of a 
race of beings nobler than themselves — men stronger and more 
gifted, with the immortal fire of a god in their veins ; women 
divinely beautiful, or divinely inspired ; but, also, the Irish never 
defaced the image of God in their hearts by infidelity or irreligion. 
One of the most beautiful and sublimely touching records in all 


human history is that of the unswerving devotion of the Irish 
people to their ancient faith, through persecutions and penal 
enactments more insulting and degrading than were ever inflicted 
in any other land by one Christian sect upon another. 

With this peculiarly reverential nature it would be impossible 
to make the Irish a nation of sceptics, even if a whole legion of 
German Rationalists came amongst them to preach a crusade 
against all belief in the spiritual and the unseen. And the old 
traditions of their race have likewise taken firm hold in their 
hearts, because they are an artistic people, and require objects for 
their adoration and love, not mere abstractions to be accepted by 
their reason. And they are also a nation of poets ; the presence 
of God is ever near them, and the saints and angels, and the 
shadowy beings of earth and air are perpetually drawing their 
minds, through mingled love and fear, to the infinite and invisible 
world. Probably not one tradition or custom that had its origin 
in a religious belief has been lost in Ireland during the long course 
of ages since the first people from Eastern lands arrived and 
settled on our shores. The Baal fires are still lit at Midsummer, 
though no longer in honour of the sun, but of St. John ; and the 
peasants still make their cattle pass between two fires — not, 
indeed, as of old, in the name of Moloch, but of some patron saint. 
That all Irish legends point to the East for their origin, not to the 
North, is certain ; to a warm land, not one of icebergs, and thunder 
crashes of the rending of ice-bound rivers, but to a region where 
the shadow of trees, and a cool draught from the sparkling well 
were life-giving blessings. Well-worship could not have originated 
in a humid country like Ireland, where wells can be found at every 
step, and sky and land are ever heavy and saturated with moisture. 
It must have come from an Eastern people, wanderers in a dry and 
thirsty land, where the discovery of a well seemed like the inter- 
position of an angel in man's behalf. 

We are told also by the ancient chroniclers that serpent-worship 
once prevailed in Ireland, and that St. Patrick hewed down the 
serpent idol Crom-Cruadh (the great worm) and cast it into the 
Boyne (from whence arose the legend that St. Patrick banished all 
venomous things from the island). Now as the Irish never could 
have seen a serpent, none existing in Ireland, this worship must 
have come from the far East, where this beautiful and deadly 
creature is looked upon as the symbol of the Evil One, and 
worshipped and propitiated by votive offerings, as all evil things 
were in the early world, in the hope of turning away their evil 
hatred from man, and to induce them to show mercy and pity ; just 
as the Egyptians propitiated the sacred crocodile by subtle 
flatteries and hung costly jewels in its ears. The Irish, indeed, 
do not seem to have originated any peculiar or national cultus. 
Their funeral ceremonies recall those of Egypt and Greece and 


other ancient Eastern climes, from whence they brought their 
customs of the Wake, the death chant, the mourning women, and 
the funeral games. In Sparta, on the death of a king or great 
chief, they had a wake and " keen " not common to the rest of 
Greece, hut which they said they learned from the Phoenicians ; 
and this peculiar usage bears a striking resemblance to the Irish 
practice. All the virtues of the dead were recited, and the Greek 
" Eleleu," the same cry as the u Ul-lu-lu " of the Irish, was keened 
over the corpse by the chorus of hired mourning women. The 
custom of selecting women in place of men for the chorus of 
lamentation prevailed throughout all the ancient world, as if an 
open display of grief was thought beneath the dignity of man. It 
was Cassandra gave the keynote for the wail over Hector, and 
Helen took the lead in reciting praises to his honour. The death 
chants in Egypt, Arabia, and Abyssinia all bear a marked resem- 
blance to the Irish ; indeed the mourning cry is the same in all, 
and the Egyptian lamentation" Hi-loo-loo ! Hi-loo-loo ! " cried over 
the dead, was probably the original form of the Irish wail. 

The Greeks always endeavoured to lessen the terrors of death, 
and for this reason they established funeral games, and the funeral 
ceremonies took the form of a festival, where they ate and drank 
and poured libations of wine in honour of the dead. The Irish had 
also their funeral games and peculiar dances, when they threw off 
their upper garments, and holding hands in a circle, moved in a 
slow measure round a woman crouched in the centre, with her 
hands covering her face. Another singular part of the ceremony 
was the entrance of a woman wearing a cow's head and horns, as 
Io appears upon the scene in the Prometheus of -^Eschylus. This 
woman was probably meant to represent the horned or crescented 
moon, the antique Diana, the Goddess of Death. The custom of 
throwing off the garments no doubt originally signified the casting 
off the garment of the flesh. "We brought nothing into this world, 
and it is certain we carry nothing out. The soul must stand 
unveiled before God. 

In the islands off the West Coast of Ireland, where the most 
ancient superstitions still exist, they have a strange custom. No 
funeral wail is allowed to be raised until three hours have elapsed 
from the moment of death, because, they say, the sound of the 
cries would hinder the soul from speaking to God when it stands 
before Him, and waken up the two great dogs that are watching 
for the souls of the dead in order that they may devour them — 
and the Lord of Heaven Himself cannot hinder them if once they 
waken. This tradition of watching by the dead in silence, while 
the soul stands before God, is a fine and solemn superstition, which 
must have had its origin amongst a people of intense faith in the 
invisible world, and is probably of great antiquity. 

The sound of the Irish keen is wonderfully pathetic. No one 


could listen to the long-sustained minor wail of the " Ul-lu-lu " 
without strong emotion and even tears; and once heard it can 
never he forgotten. Nor is there anything derogatory to grief in 
the idea of hired mourners; on the contrary, it is a splendid 
tribute to the dead to order their praises to be recited publicly 
before the assembled friends ; while there is something indescrib- 
ably impressive in the aspect of the mourning women crouched 
around the bier with shrouded heads, as they rock themselves to 
and fro and intone the solemn, ancient death-song with a 
measured cadence, sometimes rising to a piercing wail. They 
seem like weird and shadowy outlines of an old-world vision, and 
at once the imagination is carried back to the far-distant East, 
and the time when all these funeral symbols had a mysterious and 
awful meaning. Sometimes a wail of genuine and bitter grief 
interrupts the chant of the hired mourners. An Irish keen which 
was taken down from the lips of a bereaved mother some years 
ago, runs thus in the literal English version — 

" women, look on me ! Look on me, women ! Have you 
ever seen any sorrow like mine ? Have you ever seen the like of 
me in my sorrow ? Arrah, then, my darling, my darling, 'tis your 
mother that calls you. How long you are sleeping. Do you see 
all the people round you, my darling, and I sorely weeping ? 
Arrah, what is this paleness on your face ? Sure there was no 
equal to it in Erin for beauty and fairness, and your hair was 
heavy as the wing of a raven, and your skin was whiter than the 
hand of a lady. Is it the stranger must carry me to my grave, and 
my son lying here ? " 

This touching lament is so thoroughly Greek in form and senti- 
ment that it might be taken for part of a chorus from the Hecuba 
of Euripides. Even the " Arrah " reminds one of a Greek word 
used frequently by the Greeks when commencing a sentence or 
asking a question, although the resemblance may be only 

The tales and legends told by the peasants in the Irish verna- 
cular are much more weird and strange, and have much more of 
the old-world colouring than the ordinary fairy tales narrated in 
English by the people, as may be seen by the following mythical 
story, translated from the Irish, and which is said to be a 
thousand years old :• — 


A rich woman sat up late one night carding and preparing wool, 
while all the family and servants were asleep. Suddenly a knock 
was given at the door, and a voice called — " Open ! open I " 
" Who is there ? " said the woman of the house. 


" I am the Witch of the One Horn," was answered. 

The mistress, supposing that one of her neighbours had called 
and required assistance, opened the door, and a woman entered, 
having in her hand a pair of wool carders, and hearing a horn on 
her forehead, as if growing there. She sat down by the fire in 
silence, and began to card the wool with violent haste. Suddenly 
she paused and said aloud : (< Where are the women ? They 
delay too long." 

Then a second knock came to the door, and a voice called as 
before — " Open ! open ! " 

The mistress felt herself constrained to rise and open to the call, 
and immediately a second witch entered, having two horns on her 
forehead, and in her hand a wheel for spinning the wool. 

"Give me place," she said; "I am the Witch of the Two 
Horns," and she began to spin as quick as lightning. 

And so the knocks went on, and the call was heard, and the 
witches entered, until at last twelve women sat round the fire— 
the first with one horn, the last with twelve horns. And they 
carded the thread, and turned their spinning wheels, and wound 
and wove, all singing together an ancient rhyme, but no word did 
they speak to the mistress of the house. Strange to hear, and 
frightful to look upon were these twelve women, with their horns 
and their wheels ; and the mistress felt near to death, and she 
tried to rise that she might call for help, but she could not move, 
nor could she utter a word or a cry, for the spell of the witches 
was upon her. 

Then one of them called to her in Irish and said — 

" Rise, woman, and make us a cake." 

Then the mistress searched for a vessel to bring water from the 
well that she might mix the meal and make the cake, but she 
could find none. And they said to her — 

" Take a sieve and bring water in it " 

And she took the sieve and went to the well ; but the water 
poured from it, and she could fetch none for the cake, and she sat 
down by the well and wept. Then a voice came by her and said — 

" Take yellow clay and moss and bind them together and plaster 
the sieve so that it will hold." 

This she did, and the sieve held the water for the cake, And 
the voice said again — 

"Return, and when thou comest to the north angle of the 
house, cry aloud three times and say, ' The mountain of the 
Fenian women and the sky over it is all on fire/" 

And she did so. 

When the witches inside heard the call, a great and terrible cry 
broke from their lips and they rushed forth with wild lamenta- 
tions and shrieks, and fled away to Slieve-namon, where was their 
chief abode. But the Spirit of the Well bade the mistress of the 


house to enter and prepare her home against the enchantments of 
the witches if they returned again. 

And first, to break their spells, she sprinkled the water in 
which she had washed her child's feet (the feet-water) outside the 
door on the threshold ; secondly, she tools the cake which the witches 
had made in her absence, of meal mixed with the blood drawn 
from the sleeping family. And she broke the cake in bits, and 
placed a bit in the mouth of each sleeper, and they were restored ; 
and she took the cloth they had woven and placed it half in and 
half out of the chest with the padlock ; and lastly, she secured 
the door with a great cross-beam fastened in the jambs, so that 
they could not enter. And having done these things she waited. 

Not long were the witches in coming back, and they raged and 
called for vengeance. 

" Open ! Open ! " they screamed. " Open, feet-water ! " 

" I cannot," said the feet-water, " I am scattered on the ground 
and my path is down to the Lough." 

"Open, open, wood and tree and beam!" they cried to the 

" I cannot," said the door ; " for the beam is fixed in the jambs 
and I have no power to move." 

" Open, open, cake that we have made and mingled with blood/' 
they cried again. 

" I cannot," said , the cake, " for I am broken and bruised, and 
my blood is on the lips of the sleeping children." 

Then the witches rushed through the air with great cries, and 
fled back to Slieve-namon, uttering strange curses on the Spirit of 
the Well, who had wished their ruin ; but the woman and the 
house were left in peace, and a mantle dropped by one of the 
witches in her flight was kept hung up by the mistress as a sign of 
the night's awful contest ; and this mantle was in possession of 
the same family from generation to generation for live hundred 
years after. 


The next tale I shall select is composed in a lighter and more 
modern spirit. All the usual elements of a fairy tale are to be 
found in it, but the story is new to the nursery folk, and, if well 
illustrated, would make a pleasant and novel addition to the 
rather worn-out legends on which the children of many genera- 
tions have been hitherto subsisting. 

In old times there lived where Ballytowtas Oastle now stands a 
poor man named Towtas. It was in the time when manna fell to 
the earth with the dew of evening, and Towtas lived by gathering 


the manna, and thus supported himself, for he was a poor man, 
and had nothing else. 

One day a pedlar came by that way with a fair young daughter. 

" Give us a night's lodging," he said to Towtas, " for we are 

And Towtas did so. 

Next morning, when they were going away, his heart longed 
for the young girl, and he said to the pedlar, "Give me your 
daughter for my wife." 

" How will you support her ? " asked the pedlar. 

" Better than you can," answered Towtas, " for she can never 

Then he told him all about the manna ; how he went out every 
morning when it was lying on the ground with the dew, and 
gathered it, as his father and forefathers had done before him, and 
lived on it all their lives, so that he had never known want nor 
any of his people. 

Then the girl showed she would like to stay with the young 
man, and the pedlar consented, and they were married, Towtas 
and the fair young maiden ; and the pedlar left them and went 
his way. So years went on, and they were very happy and never 
wanted ; and they had one son, a bright, handsome youth, and as 
clever as he was comely. 

But in due time old Towtas died, and after her husband was 
buried, the woman went out to gather the manna as she had seen 
him do, when the dew lay on the ground ; but she soon g*rew tired 
and said to herself, " "Why should I do this thing every day ? 
I'll just gather now enough to do the week and then I can have 

So she gathered up great heaps of it greedily, and went her 
way into the house. But the sin of greediness lay on her ever- 
more ; and not a bit of manna fell with the dew that evening, nor 
ever again. And she was poor, and faint with hunger, and had to 
go out and work in the fields to earn the morsel that kept her and 
her son alive; and she begged pence from the people as they went 
into chapel, and this paid for her son's schooling ; so he went on 
with his learning, and no one in the county was like him for 
beauty and knowledge. 

One day he heard the people talking of a great lord that lived 
up in Dublin, who had a daughter so handsome that her like was 
never seen ; and all the fine young gentlemen were dying about 
her, but she would take none of them. And he came home to his 
mother and said, "I shall go see this great lord's daughter. 
Maybe the luck will be mine above all the fine young gentlemen 
that love her." 

" Go along, poor fool," said the mother, " how can the poor 
stand before the rich ? " 


But he persisted. " If I die on the road," he said, " I'll try it." 

"Wait, then," she answered, "till Sunday, and whatever I 
get I'll give you half of it." So she gave him half of the 
pence she gathered at the chapel door, and bid him go in the 
name of God. 

He hadn't gone far when he met a poor man who asked him for 
a trifle for God's sake. So he gave him something out of his 
mother's money and went on. Again, another met him, and begged 
for a trifle to buy food, for the sake of God, and he gave him some- 
thing also, and then went on. 

" Give me a trifle for God's sake," cried a voice, and he saw a 
third poor man before him. 

" I have nothing left," said Towtas, " but a few pence ; if I give 
them, I shall have nothing for food and must die of hunger. But 
come with me, and whatever I can buy for this I shall share with 
you." And as they were going on to the inn he told all his story 
to the beggar man, and how he wanted to go to Dublin, but had 
now no money. So they came to the inn, and he called for a loaf 
and a drink of milk. " Out the loaf," he said to the beggar. 
" You are the oldest." 

" I won't," said the other, for he was ashamed, but Towtas made 

And so the beggar cut the loaf, but though they ate, it never 
grew smaller, and though they drank as they liked of the milk, it 
never grew less. Then Towtas rose up to pay, but when the land- 
lady came and looked, " How is this ? " she said. " You have 
eaten nothing. I'll not take your money, poor boy," but he made 
her take some ; and they left the place, and went on their way 

" Now," said the beggar man, " you have been three times good 
to me to-day, for thrice I have met you, and you gave me help for 
the sake of God each time. See, now, I can help also," and he 
reached a gold ring to the handsome youth. " Wherever you 
place that ring, and wish for it, gold will come — bright gold, so 
that you can never want while you have it." 

Then Towtas put the ring first in one pocket and then in 
another, until all his pockets were so heavy with gold that he could 
scarcely walk ; but when he turned to thank the friendly beggar 
man, he had disappeared. 

So, wondering to himself at all his adventures, he went on, 
until he came at last in sight of the lord's palace, which was 
beautiful to see ; but he would not enter in until he went and 
bought fine clothes, and made himself as grand as any prince ; 
and then he went boldly up, and they invited him in, for they 
said, " Surely he is a king's son." And when dinner-hour came the 
lord's daughter linked her arm with Towtas, and smiled on him. 
And he drank of the rich wine, and was mad with love; but at 


last the wine overcame him, and the servants had to carry him to 
his bed; and in going into his room he dropped the ring from his 
finger, but knew it not. 

Now, in the morning, the lord's daughter came by, and cast her 
eyes upon the door of his chamber, and there close by it was the 
ring she had seen him wear. 

" Ah," she said, " I'll tease him now about his ring." And she 
put it in her box, and wished that she were as rich as a king's 
daughter, that so the king's son might marry her; and, behold, the 
box filled up with gold, so that she could not shut it j and she 
put it from her into another box, and that filled also ; and then 
she was frightened at the ring, and put it at last in her pocket as 
the safest place. 

But when Towtas awoke and missed the ring, his heart was 

" Now, indeed," he said, " my luck is gone." 

And he inquired of all the servants, and then of the lord's 
daughter, and she laughed, by which he knew she had it ; but no 
coaxing would get it from her, so when all was useless he went 
away, and set out again to reach his old home. 

And he was very mournful and threw himself down on the 
ferns near an old fort, waiting till night came on, for he feared to 
go home in the daylight lest the people should laugh at him for 
his folly. And about dusk three cats came out of the fort talking 
to each other. 

" How long our cook is away," said one. 

" What can have happened to him ? " said another. 

And as they were grumbling a fourth cat came up. 

" What delayed you ? " they all asked angrily. 

Then he told his story — how he had met Towtas and given him 
the ring, " And I just went," he said, " to the lord's palace to see 
how the young man behaved ; and I was leaping over the dinner- 
table when the lord's knife struck my tail and three drops of blood 
fell upon his plate, but he never saw it and swallowed them with 
his meat. So now he has three kittens inside him and is dying of 
agony, and can never be cured until he drinks three draughts of 
the water of the well of Bally towtas." 

So when young Towtas heard the cats talk he sprang up and 
went and told his mother to give him three bottles full of the 
water of the Towtas well, and he would go to the lord disguised 
as a doctor and cure him. 

So off he went to Dublin. And all the doctors in Ireland were 
round the lord, but none of them could tell what ailed him, or 
how to cure him. Then Towtas came in and said, " I will cure 
him." So they gave him entertainment and lodging, and when he 
was refreshed he gave of the well water three draughts to his 
lordsnip, when out jumped the three kittens. And there was 


great rejoicing, and they treated Towtas like a prince. But all 
the same he could not get the ring from the lord's daughter, so he 
set off home again quite disheartened, and thought to himself, 
"If I could only meet the man again that gave me the ring 
who knows what luck I might have ? " And he sat down to rest 
in a wood, and saw there not far off three boys fighting under an 

" Shame on ye to fight so," he said to them. " What is the fight 

Then they told him. " Our father," they said, " before he 
died, buried under this oak-tree a ring by which you can 
be in any place in two minutes if you only wish it ; a goblet 
that is always full when standing, and empty only when on its 
side ; and a harp that plays any tune of itself that you name or 
wish for." 

" I want to divide the things," said the youngest boy, " and tat 
us all go and seek our fortunes as we can." 

" But I have a right to the whole," said the eldest. 

And they went on fighting, till at length Towtas said — 

" I'll tell you how to settle the matter. All of you be here to- 
morrow, and I'll think over the matter to-night, and I engage you 
will have nothing more to quarrel about when you come in the 

So the boys promised to keep good friends till they met in the 
morning, and went away. 

When Towtas saw them clear off, he dug up the ring, the goblet, 
and the harp, and now said he, " I'm all right, and they won't 
have anything to fight about in the morning." 

Off he set back again to the lord's castle with the ring, the 
goblet, and the harp ; but he soon bethought himself of the 
powers of the ring, and in two minutes he was in the great hall 
where all the lords and ladies were just sitting down to dinner ; 
and the harp played the sweetest music, and they all listened in 
delight ; and he drank out of the goblet which was never empty, 
and then, when his head began to grow a little light, " It is 
enough," he said ; and putting his arm round the waist of the 
lord's daughter, he took his harp and goblet in the other hand, 
and murmuring — " I wish we were at the old fort by the side of 
the wood" — in two minutes they were both at the desired spot. 
But his head was heavy with the wine, and he laid down the 
harp beside him and fell asleep. And when she saw him asleep 
she took the ring off his finger, and the harp and the goblet from 
the ground and was back home in her father's castle before two 
minutes had passed by. 

When Towtas awoke and found his prize gone, and all his tre a- 
sures beside, he was like one mad ; and roamed about the country 
till he came by an orchard, where he saw a tree covered with 


bright, rosy apples. Being hungry and thirsty, he plucked one 
and ate it, but no sooner had he done so than horns began to 
sprout from his forehead, and grew larger and longer till he knew 
he looked like a goat, and all he could do, they would not come 
off. Now, indeed, he was driven out of his mind, and thought 
how all the neighbours would laugh at him ; and as he raged and 
roared with shame, he spied another tree with apples, still brighter,, 
of ruddy gold. 

" If I were to have fifty pairs of horns I must have one of those," 
he said; and seizing one, he had no sooner tasted it than the horns 
fell off, and he felt that he was looking stronger and handsomer 
than ever. 

" Now, I have her at last," he exclaimed. " 111 put horns on 
them all, and will never take them off until they give her to me 
as my bride before the whole Court." 

Without further delay he set off to the lord's palace, carrying 
with him as many of the apples as he could bring off the two trees. 
And when they saw the beauty of the fruit they longed for it; and 
he gave to them all, so that at last there was not a head to be seen 
without horns in the whole dining-hall. Then they cried out and 
prayed to have the horns taken off, but Towtas said — 

u No ; there they shall be till I have the lord's daughter given 
to me for my bride, and my two rings, my goblet, and my harp 
all restored to me." 

And this was done before the face of all the lords and ladies ; 
and his treasures were restored to him ; and the lord placed his 
daughter's hand in the hand of Towtas, saying — 

" Take her ; she is your wife ; only free me from the horns." 

Then Towtas brought forth the golden apples ; and they all ate, 
and the horns fell off ; and he took his bride and his treasures, and 
carried them off home, where he built the Castle of Bally towtas, 
in the place where stood his father's hut, and enclosed the well 
within the walls. And when he had rilled his treasure-room with 
gold, so that no man could count his riches, he buried his fairy 
treasures deep in the ground, where no man knew, and no man 
has ever yet been able to find them until this day. 


Transformation into wolves is a favourite subject of Irish 
legend, and many a wild tale is told by the peasants round the 
turf fire in the winter nights of strange adventures with wolves. 
Stories that had come down to them from their forefathers in the 
old times long ago ; for there are no wolves existing now in 



A young farmer, named Connor, once missed two fine cows 
from his herd, and no tale or tidings could be heard of them any- 
where. So he thought he would set out on a search throughout 
the country ; and he took a stout blackthorn stick in his hand, and 
went his way. All day he travelled miles and miles, but never a 
sign of the cattle. And the evening began to grow very # dark, 
and he was wearied and hungry, and no place near to rest in ; for 
he was in the midst of a bleak, desolate heath, with never a 
habitation at all in sight, except a long, low, rude shieling, like 
the den of a robber or a wild beast. But a gleam of light came 
from a chink between the boards, and Connor took heart and went 
up and knocked at the door. It was opened at once by a tall, 
thin, grey-haired old man, with keen, dark eyes. 

" Come in," he said, il you are welcome. We have been waiting 
for you. This is my wife," and he brought him over to the 
hearth, where was seated an old, thin, grey woman, with long, 
sharp teeth and terrible glittering eyes. 

" You are welcome," she said. " "We have been waiting for 
you — it is time for supper. Sit down and eat with us." 

Now Connor was a brave fellow, but he was a little dazed at 
first at the sight of this strange creature. However, as he had his 
stout stick with him, he thought he could make a fight for his life 
any way, and, meantime, he would rest and eat, for he was both 
hungry and weary, and it was now black night, and he would 
never find his way home even if he tried. So he sat down by the 
hearth, while the old grey woman stirred the pot on the fire. 
But Connor felt that she was watching him all the time with her 
keen, sharp eyes. 

Then a knock came to the door. And the old man rose up and 
opened it. When in walked a slender, young black wolf, who 
immediately went straight across the floor to an inner room, from 
which in a few moments came forth a dark, slender, handsome 
youth, who took his place at the table and looked hard at Connor 
with his glittering eyes. 

" You are welcome," he said, " we have waited for you." 

Before Connor could answer another knock was heard, and in 
came a second wolf, who passed on to the inner room like the first, 
and soon after, another dark, handsome youth came out and sat 
down to supper with them, glaring at Connor with his keen eyes, 
but said no word. 

" These are our sons," said the old man, " tell them what you 
want, and what brought you here amongst us, for we live alone 
and don't care to have spies and strangers coming to our place." 

Then Connor told his story, how he had lost his two fine cows, 
and had searched all day and found no trace of them; and he 
knew nothing of the place he was in, nor of the kindly gentleman 
who asked him to supper j but if they just told him where to find 


his cows lie would thank them, and make the best of his way 
home at once. 

Then they all laughed and looked at each other, and the old 
hag looked more frightful than ever when she showed her long, 
sharp teeth. 

On this, Connor grew angry, for he was hot tempered ; and he 
grasped his blackthorn stick firmly in his hand and stood up, and 
bade them open the door for him ; for he would go his way, since 
they would give no heed and only mocked him. 

Then the eldest of the young men stood up. " Wait," he said, 
" we are fierce and evil, but we never forget a kindness. Do you 
remember, one day down in the glen you found a poor little wolf 
in great agony and like to die, because a sharp thorn had pierced 
his side ? And you gently extracted the thorn and gave him a 
drink, and went your way leaving him in peace and rest ? " 

" Aye, well do I remember it," said Connor, " and how the poor 
little beast licked my hand in gratitude." 

" Well," said the young man, "I am that wolf, and I shall help 
you if I can, but stay with us to-night and have no fear." 

So they sat down again to supper and feasted merrily, and then 
all fell fast asleep, and Connor knew nothing more till he awoke 
in the morning and found himself by a large hay-rick in his own 

" Now surely," thought he, u the adventure of last night was 
not all a dream, and I shall certainly find my cows when I go 
home ; for that excellent, good young wolf promised his help, and 
I feel certain he would not deceive me." 

But when he arrived home and looked over the yard and the 
stable and the field, there was no sign nor sight of the cows. So 
he grew very sad and dispirited. But just then he espied in the 
field close by three of the most beautiful strange cows he had 
ever set eyes on. " These must have strayed in," he said, " from 
some neighbour's ground;" and he took his big stick to drive 
them out of the gate off the field. But when he reached the gate, 
there stood a young black wolf watching; and when the cows 
tried to pass out at the gate he bit at them, and drove them back. 
Then Connor knew that his friend the wolf had kept his word. 
So he let the cows go quietly back to the field ; and there they 
remained, and grew to be the finest in the whole country, and 
their descendants are flourishing to this day, and Connor grew 
rich and prospered ; for a kind deed is never lost, but brings good 
luck to the doer for evermore, as the old proverb says ; 

•* Blessings are won, 
By a good deed done." 

But never again did Connor find that desolate heath or that lone 



shieling", though he sought far and wide, to return his thanks, as 
was due to the friendly wolves ; nor did he ever again meet any 
of the family, though he mourned much whenever a slaughtered 
wolf was brought into the town for the sake of the reward, fear- 
ing his excellent friend might be the victim. At that time th€ 
wolves in Ireland had increased to such an extent, owing to the 
desolation of the country by constant wars, that a reward was 
offered and a high price paid for every wolf's skin brought into 
the court of the justiciary; and this was in the time of Queen 
Elizabeth, when the English troops made ceaseless war against 
the Irish people, and there were more wolves in Ireland than men ; 
and the dead lay unburied in hundreds on the highways, for there 
were no hands left to dig them graves. 


There is nothing more dreaded by the people, nor considered 
more deadly in its effects, than the Evil Eye. 

It may strike at any moment unless the greatest precautions are 
taken, and even then theie is no true help possible unless the fairy 
doctor is at once summoned to pronounce the mystic charm that 
can alone destroy the evil and fatal influence. 

There are several modes in which the Evil Eye can act, some 
much more deadly than others. If certain persons are met the 
first thing in the morning, you will be unlucky for the whole of 
that day in all you do. If the evil-eyed comes in to rest, and 
looks fixedly on anything, on cattle or on a child, there is doom in 
the glance ; a fatality which cannot be evaded except by a power- 
ful counter-charm. But if the evil-eyed mutters a verse over a 
sleeping child, that child will assuredly die, for the incantation is 
of the devil, and no charm has power to resist it or turn away the 
evil. Sometimes the process of bewitching is effected by looking 
fixedly at the object, through nine fingers ; especially is the magic 
fatal if the victim is seated by the fire in the evening when the 
moon is full. Therefore, to avoid being suspected of having the 
Evil Eye, it is necessary at once, when looking at a child, to say 
" God bless it." And when passing a farmyard where the cows 
are collected for milking, to say, " The blessing of God be on you 
and on all your labours." If this form is omitted, the worst 
results may be apprehended, and the people would be filled with 
terror and alarm, unless a counter-charm were not instantly 

The singular malific influence of a glance has been felt by most 
persons in life ; an influence that seems to paralyze intellect and 


speech, simply by the mere presence in the room of some one who 
is mystically antipathetic to our nature. For the soul is like a 
fine-toned harp that vibrates to the slightest external force or 
movement, and the presence and glance of some persons can 
radiate around us a divine joy, while others may kill the soul with 
a sneer or a frown. We call these subtle influences mysteries, 
but the early races believed them to be produced by spirits, good 
or evil, as they acted on the nerves or the intellect. 

Some years ago an old woman was living in Kerry, and it was 
thought so unlucky to meet her in the morning, that all the girls 
used to go out after sunset to bring in water for the following day, 
that so they might avoid her evil glance ; for whatever she looked 
on came to loss and grief. 

There was a man, also, equally dreaded on account of the 
strange, fatal power of his glance ; and so many accidents and 
misfortunes were traced to his presence that finally the neighbours 
insisted that he should wear a black patch over the Evil Eye, not 
to be removed unless by request ; for learned gentlemen, curious 
in such things, sometimes came to him to ask for a proof of his 
power, and he would try it for a wager while drinking with his 

One day, near an old ruin of a castle, he met a boy weeping in 
great grief for his pet pigeon, which had got up to the very top of 
the ruin, and could not be coaxed down. 

" What will you give me," asked the man, " if I bring it down 
for you ? " 

" I have nothing to give," said the boy, " but I will pray to God 
for you. Only get me back my pigeon, and I shall be happy." 

Then the man took off the black patch and looked up steadfastly 
at the bird ; when all of a sudden it fell to the ground and lay 
motionless, as if stunned ; but there was no harm done to it, and 
the boy took it up and went his way, rejoicing. 

A woman in the County Galway had a beautiful child, so 
handsome, that all the neighbours were very careful to say " God 
bless it" when they saw him, for they knew the fairies would 
desire to steal the child, and carry it off to the hills. 

But one day it chanced that an old woman, a stranger, came in. 
u Let me rest," she said, " for I am weary." And she sat down 
and looked at the child, but never said " God bless it." And when 
she had rested, she rose up, looked again at the child fixedly, in 
silence, and then went her way. 

All that night the child cried and would not sleep. And all 
next day it moaned as if in pain. So the mother told the priest, 
but he would do nothing for fear of the fairies. And just as the 
poor mother was in despair, she §aw a strange wgrnan going by the 


door. li Who knows," she said to her husband, " but this woman 
would help us." So they asked her to come in and rest. And 
when she looked at the child she said " God bless it/' instantly, 
and spat three times at it, and then sat down. 

" Now, what will you give me," she said, " if I tell you what 
ails the child ? " 

"I will cross your hand with silver," said the mother, "as 
much as you want, only speak," and she laid the money on the 
woman's hand. "Now tell me the truth, for the sake and in the 
name of Mary, and the good Angels." 

" "Well," said the stranger, " the fairies have had your child these 
two days in the hills, and this is a changeling they have left in its 
place. But so many blessings were said on your child that the 
fairies can do it no harm. For there was only one blessing 
wanting, and only one person gave the Evil Eye. Now, you must 
watch for this woman, carry her into the house and secretly cut 
off a piece of her cloak. Then burn the piece close to the child, 
till the smoke as it rises makes him sneeze ; and when this happens 
the spell is broken, and your own child will come back to you 
safe and sound, in place of the changeling." 

Then the stranger rose up and went her way. 

All that evening the mother watched for the old woman, and at 
last she spied her on the road. 

" Come in," she cried, " come in, good woman, and rest, for the 
cakes are hot on the griddle, and supper is ready." 

So the woman came in, but never said " God bless you kindly," 
to man or mortal, only scowled at the child, who cried worse 
than ever. 

Now the mother had told her eldest girl to cut of? a piece of the 
old woman's cloak, secretly, when she sat down to eat. And the 
girl did as she was desired, and handed the piece to her mother, 
unknown to any one. But, to their surprise, this was no sooner 
done than the woman rose up and went out without uttering a 
word ; and they saw her no more. 

Then the father carried the child outside, and burned the piece 
of cloth before the door, and held the boy over the smoke till he 
sneezed three times violently : after which he gave the child back 
to the mother, who laid him in his bed, where he slept peacefully, 
with a smile on his face, and cried no more with the cry of pain, 
And when he woke up the mother knew that she had got her 
own darling child back from the fairies, and no evil thing hap- 
pened to him any more. 

The influence of the mysterious and malign power of the Evil 
Eye has at all times been as much dreaded in Ireland as it is in 
Egypt, Greece, or Italy at the present day. Everything young 


beautiful, or perfect after its kind, and which naturally attracts 
attention and admiration, is peculiarly liable to the fatal blight 
that follows the glance of the Evil Eye. It is therefore an in- 
variable habit amongst the peasantry never to praise anything with- 
out instantly adding, "God bless it;" for were this formula 
omitted, the worst consequences would befall the object praised. 

The superstition must be of great antiquity in Ireland, for 
Balor, the Fomorian giant and hero, is spoken of in an ancient 
manuscript as able to petrify his enemies by a glance ; and how he 
became possessed of the power is thus narrated : — 

One day as the Druids were busy at their incantations, while 
boiling a magical spell or charm, young Balor passed by, and 
curious to see their work, looked in at an open window. At that 
moment the Druids happened to raise the lid of the caldron, and 
the vapour, escaping, passed under one of Balor's eyes, carrying 
with it all the venom of the incantation. This caused his brow 
to grow to such a size that it required four men to raise it when- 
ever he wanted to exert the power of his venomed glance over his 
enemies. He was slain at last in single combat, according to the 
ancient legend, at the great battle of Magh-Tura* (the plain of the 
towers), fought between the Firbolgs and the Tuatha-de-Dananns 
for the possession of Ireland several centuries before the Christian 
era ; for before Balor's brow could be lifted so that he could 
transfix his enemy and strike him dead with the terrible power of 
his glance, his adversary flung a stone with such violence that it 
went right through the Evil Eye, and pierced the skull, and the 
mighty magician fell to risesno more. 

An interesting account of this battle, with a remarkable con- 
firmation of the legends respecting it still current in the district, 
is given by Sir William Wilde, in his work, " Lough Corrib ; its 
Shores and Islands." In the ancient manuscript, it is recorded 
that a young hero having been slain while bravely defending his 
king, the Firbolg army erected a mound over him, each man 
carrying a stone, and the monument was henceforth known as the 
Carn-in-en-Fhir (the cairn of the one man). Having examined 
the locality with a transcript of this manuscript in his hand, Sir 
William fixed on the particular mound, amongst the many stone 
tumuli scattered over the plain, which seemed to agree best with 
the description, and had it opened carefully under his own 

A large flag-stone was first discovered, laid horizontally ; then 
another beneath it, covering a small square chamber formed of 
stones, within which was a single urn of baked clay, graceful and 
delicate in form and ornamentation, containing incinerated human 
bones, the remains, there can be no reason to doubt, of the Firbolg 

* Now called Moy tura. 


youth who was honoured for his loyalty hy the erection over him 
of the Carn-in-en-Fhir on the historic plains of Mayo. 

After Balor, the only other ancient instance of the fatal effects 
of the malific Eye is narrated of St. Silan, who had a poisonous 
hair in his eyebrow that killed whoever looked first on him in the 
morning. All persons, therefore, who from long sickness, or 
sorrow, or the weariness that comes with years, were tired of life, 
used to try and come in the saint's way, that so their sufferings 
might be ended by a quick and easy death. But another saint, the 
holy Molaise, hearing that St. Silan was coming to visit his church, 
resolved that no more deaths should happen by means of the 
poisoned hair. So he arose early in the morning, before any one 
was up, and went forth alone to meet St. Silan, and when he saw 
him coming along the path, he went boldly up and plucked out 
the fatal hair from his eyebrow, but in doing so he himself was 
struck by the venom, and immediately after fell down^dead. 

The power of the Evil Eye was recognized by the Brehon laws, 
and severe measures were ordained against the users of the malign 
influence. " If a person is in the habit of injuring things through 
neglect, or of will, whether he has blessed, or whether he has not 
blessed, full penalty be upon him, or restitution in kind." So ran 
the ancient law. 

The gift comes by nature and is born with one, though it may 
not be called into exercise unless circumstances arise to excite the 
power. Then it seems to act like a spirit of bitter and malicious 
envy that radiates a poisonous atmosphere which chills and 
blights everything within its reach. Without being superstitious 
every one has felt that there is such a power and succumbed to its 
influence in a helpless, passive way, as if all self-trust and self- 
reliant energy were utterly paralyzed by its influence. 

Suspected persons are held in great dread by the peasantry, 
and they recognize them at once by certain signs. Men and 
women with dark lowering eyebrows are especially feared, and 
the handsome children are kept out of their path lest they might 
be overlooked by them. 

JEted hair is supposed to have a most malign influence, and it has 
even passed into a proverb : " Let not the eye of a red-haired 
woman rest on you." 

Many persons are quite unconscious that their glance or frown 
has this evil power until some calamity results, and then they 
strive not to look at any one full in the face, but to avert their 
eyes when speaking, lest misfortune might fall upon the person 

The saving invocation, " God bless it ! " is universally used when 

* There is a strange idea current in Europe at the present time that one 
of the most remarkable potentates now living has this fatal gift and power 
of the Evil Eye, 


praise is bestowed, to prevent danger, and should a child fall sick 
some one is immediately suspected of having omitted the usual 
phrase out of malice and ill-will. Nothing is more dreaded by the 
peasantry than the full, fixed, direct glance of one suspected of 
the Evil Eye, and should it fall upon them, or on any of their 
household, a terrible fear and trembling of heart takes possession 
of them, which often ends in sickness or sometimes even in 

Some years ago a woman living in Kerry declared that she was 
" overlooked " by the Evil Eye. She had no pleasure in her life 
and no comfort, and she wasted away because of the fear that was 
on her, caused by the following singular circumstance :— 

Every time that she happened to leave home alone, and that 
no one was within call, she was met by a woman totally unknown 
to her, who, fixing her eyes on her in silence, with a terrible ex- 
pression, cast her to the ground and proceeded to beat and pinch 
her till she was nearly senseless ; after which her tormentor dis- 

Having experienced this treatment several times, the poor 
woman finally abstained altogether from leaving the house, unless 
protected by a servant or companion; and this precaution she 
observed for several years, during which time she never was 
molested. So at last she began to believe that the spell was 
broken, and that her strange enemy had departed for ever. 

In consequence she grew less careful about the usual precaution, 
and one day stepped down alone to a little stream that ran by the 
house to wash some clothes. 

Stooping down over her work, she never thought of any danger, 
and began to sing as she used to do in the light-hearted days 
before the spell was on her, when suddenly a dark shadow fell 
across the water, and looking up, she beheld to her horror the 
strange woman on the opposite side of the little stream, with her 
terrible eyes intently fixed on her, as hard and still as if she were 
of stone. 

Springing up with a scream of terror, she flung down her work, 
and ran towards the house ; but soon she heard footsteps behind 
her, and in an instant she was seized, thrown down to the ground, 
and her tormentor began to beat her even worse than before, till 
she lost all consciousness ; and in this state she was found by her 
husband, lying on her face and speechless. She was at once 
carried to the house, and all the care that affection and rural skill 
could bestow were lavished on her, but in vain. She, however, 
regained sufficient consciousness to tell them of the terrible en- 
counter she had gone through, but died before the night had 
passed away. 


It was believed that the power of fascination by the glance, 
which is not necessarily an evil power like the Evil Eye, was 
possessed in a remarkable degree by learned and wise people, 
especially poets, so that they could make themselves loved and 
followed by any girl they liked, simply by the influence of the 
glance. About the year 1790, a young man resided in the County 
Limerick, who had this power in a singular and unusual degree. 
He was a clever, witty rhymer in the Irish language ; and, prob- 
ably, had the deep poet eyes that characterize warm and passionate 
poet-natures — eyes that even without necromancy have been known 
to exercise a powerful magnetic influence over female minds. 

One day, while travelling far from home, he came upon a 
bright, pleasant-looking farmhouse, and feeling weary, he stopped 
and requested a drink of milk and leave to rest. The farmer's 
daughter, a young, handsome girl, not liking to admit a stranger, 
as all the maids were churning, and she was alone in the house, 
refused him admittance. 

The young poet fixed his eyes earnestly on her face for some 
time in silence, then slowly turning round left the house, and 
walked towards a small grove of trees just opposite. There he 
stood for a few moments resting against a tree, and facing the 
house as if to take one last vengeful or admiring glance, then 
went his way without once turning round. 

The young girl had been watching him from the windows, and 
the moment he moved she passed out of the door like one in 
a dream, and followed him slowly, step by step, down the avenue. 
The maids grew alarmed, and called to her father, who ran out 
and shouted loudly for her to stop, but she never turned or 
seemed to heed. The young man, however, looked round, and 
seeing the whole family in pursuit, quickened his pace, first 
glancing fixedly at the girl for a moment. Immediately she 
sprang towards him, and they were both almost out of sight, r 
when one of the maids espied a piece of paper tied to a branch 
of the tree where the poet had rested. From curiosity she took 
it down, and the moment the knot was untied, the farmer's 
daughter suddenly stopped, became quite still, and when her 
father came up she allowed him to lead her back to the house 
without resistance. 

When questioned, she said that she felt herself drawn by an 
invisible force to follow the young stranger wherever he might 
lead, and that she would have followed him through the world, 
for her life seemed to be bound up in his ; she had no will to re- 
sist, and was conscious of nothing else but his presence. Suddenly, 
however, the spell was broken, and then she heard her father's 
voice, and knew how strangely she had acted. At the same time 
the power of the young man over her vanished, and the impulse 
to follow him was no longer in her heart. 


The paper, on being opened, was found to contain five myste- 
rious words written in blood, and in this order-— 


These letters are so arranged that read in any way, right to left, 
left to right, up or down, the same words are produced ; and when 
written in blood with a pen made of an eagle's feather, they form 
a charm which no woman (it is said) can resist ; but the incredu- 
lous reader can easily test the truth of this assertion for himself. 

These popular stories are provokingly incomplete, and one can- 
not help regretting that the romance of "The Poet and the 
Farmer's Daughter" was not brought to a happy termination ; but 
the Irish tales are in general rather incoherent, more like remem- 
bered fragments of ancient stories than a complete, well-organized 
dramatic composition, with lights well placed, and a striking 
catastrophe. The opening is usually attractive, with the exciting 
formula, " Once upon a time," from which one always expects so 
much ; and there is sure to be an old woman, weird and witch- 
like, capable of the most demoniacal actions, and a mysterious 
man who promises to be the unredeemed evil spirit of the tale ; 
but in the end they both turn out childishly harmless, and their 
evil actions seldom go beyond stealing their neighbours' butter, or 
abducting a pretty girl, which sins mere mortals would be quite 
equal to, even without the aid of "the gods of the earth" and 
their renowned leader, Einvarra, the King of the Fairies. The 
following tale, however, of a case of abduction by fairy power, is 
well constructed. The hero of the narrative has our sympathy 
and interest, and it ends happily, which is considered a great 
merit by the Irish, as they dislike a tale to which they cannot 
append, as an epilogue, the hearty and outspoken " Thank God." 


About the year 1670 there was a fine young fellow living at 
a place called Querin, in the County Clare. He was brave 
and strong and rich, for he had his own land and his own house, 
and not one to lord it over him. He was called the Kern 
of Querin. And many a time he would go out alone to shoot the 
wild fowl at night along the lonely strand and sometimes cross 


over northward to the broad east strand, about two miles away, 
to find the wild geese. 

One cold frosty November Eve he was watching for them, 
crouched down behind the ruins of an old hut, when a loud 
splashing noise attracted his attention. "It is the wild geese," 
he thought, and raising his gun, waited in death-like silence the 
approach of his victim. 

But presently he saw a dark mass moving along the edge of 
the strand. And he knew there were no wild geese near him. So 
he watched and waited till the black mass came closer, and then 
he distinctly perceived four stout men carrying a bier on their 
shoulders, on which lay a corpse covered with a white cloth. 
For a few moments they laid it down, apparently to rest them- 
selves, and the Kern instantly fired j on which the four men ran 
away shrieking, and the corpse was left alone on the bier. Kern 
of Querin immediately sprang to the place, and lifting the cloth 
from the face of the corpse, beheld by the freezing starlight, the 
form of a beautiful young girl, apparently not dead but in a deep 

Gently he passed his hand over her face and raised her up, when 
she opened her eyes and looked around with wild wonder, but 
spake never a word, though he tried to soothe and encourage her. 
Then, thinking it was dangerous for them to remain in that place, 
he raised her from the bier, and taking her hand led her away to 
his own house. They arrived safely, but in silence. And for 
twelve months did she remain with the Kern, never tasting food 
or speaking word for all that time. 

When the next November Eve came round, he resolved to visit 
the east strand again, and watch from the same place, in the hope 
of meeting with some adventure that might throw light on the 
history of the beautiful girl. His way lay beside the old ruined 
fort called Lios-na-fallainge (the Fort of the Mantle), and as he 
passed, the sound of music and mirth fell on his ear. He stopped 
to catch the words of the voices, and had not waited long when 
he heard a man say in a low whisper — 

" Where shall we go to-night to carry off a bride ? " 

And a second voice answered — 

" Wherever we go I hope better luck will be ours than we had 
this day twelvemonths." 

" Yes," said a third ; " on that night we carried off a rich prize, 
the fair daughter of O'Connor ; but that clown, the Kern of 
Querin, broke our spell and took her from us. Yet little pleasure 
has he had of his bride, for she has neither eaten nor drank nor 
uttered a word since she entered his house." 

" And so she will remain," said a fourth," until he makes her eat 
off her father's table-cloth, which covered her as she lay on the 
bier, and whicb is now thrown up over the top of her bed/' 


On hearing all this, the Kern rushed home, and without wait- 
ing even for the morning, entered the young girl's room, took 
down the table-cloth, spread it on the table, laid meat and drink 
thereon, and led her to it. " Drink," he said, " that speech may 
come to you." And she drank, and ate of the food, and then 
speech came. And she told the Kern her story — how she was to 
have been married to a young lord of her own country, and the 
wedding guests had all assembled, when she felt herself suddenly 
ill and swooned away, and never knew more of what had happened 
to her until the Kern had passed his hand over her face, by which 
she recovered consciousness, but could neither eat nor speak, for a 
spell was on her, and she was helpless. 

Then the Kern prepared a chariot, and carried home the young 
girl to her father, who was like to die for joy when he beheld 
her. And the Kern grew mightily in O'Connor's favour, so that 
at last he gave him his fair young daughter to wife ; and the 
wedded pair lived together happily for many long years after, and 
no evil befell them, but good followed all the work of their hands. 

This story of Kern of Querin still lingers in the faithful, vivid 
Irish memory, and is often told by the peasants of Clare when 
they gather round the fire on the awful festival of Samhain, or 
November Eve, when the dead walk, and the spirits of earth and 
air have power over mortals, whether for good or evil, 


The evil influence of the fairy glance does not kill, but it throws 
the object into a death-like trance, in which the real body is 
carried off to some fairy mansion, while a log of wood, or some 
ugly, deformed creature is left in its ' place, clothed with the 
shadow of the stolen form. Young women, remarkable for 
beauty, young men, and handsome children, are the chief victims 
of the fairy stroke. The girls are wedded to fairy chiefs, and the 
young men to fairy queens ; and if the mortal children do not turn 
out well, they are sent back, and others carried off in their place. 
It is sometimes possible, by the spells of a powerful fairy-man, to 
bring back a living being from Fairy-land. But they are never 
j[uite the same after. They have always a spirit-look, especially 
if they have listened to the fairy music. For the fairy music is 
soft and low and plaintive, with a fatal charm for mortal 

One day a gentleman entered a cabin in the County Clare, and 
saw a young girl about twenty seated by the fire, chanting a 
melancholy song, without settled words or music. On inquiry he 


was told she had once heard the fairy harp, and those who hear it 
lose all memory of love or hate, and forget all things, and never 
more have any other sound in their ears save the soft music of the 
fairy harp, and when the spell is broken, they die. 

It is remarkable that the Irish national airs — plaintive, beautiful, 
and unutterably pathetic — should so perfectly express the spirit of 
the C6ol-Sidhe (the fairy music), as it haunts the fancy of the 
people and mingles with all their traditions of the spirit world. 
Wild and capricious as the fairy nature, these delicate harmonies, 
with their mystic, mournful rhythm, seem to touch the deepest 
chords of feeling, or to fill the sunshine with laughter, according 
to the mood of the players ; but, above all things, Irish music is the 
utterance of a Divine sorrow ; not stormy or passionate, but like 
that of an exiled spirit, yearning and wistful, vague and unresting ; 
ever seeking the unattainable, ever shadowed, as it were, with 
memories of some lost good, or some dim foreboding of a coming 
fate — emotions that seem to find their truest expression in the 
sweet, sad, lingering wail of the pathetic minor in a genuine Irish 
air. There is a beautiful phrase in one of the ancient manuscripts 
descriptive of the wonderful power of Irish music over the sensitive 
human organization: "Wounded men were soothed when they 
heard it, and slept ; and women in travail forgot their pains." 
There are legends concerning the subtle charm of the fairy music 
and dance, when the mortal under their influence seems to move 
through the air with f< the naked, fleshless feet of the spirit," and 
is lulled by the ecstasy of the cadence into forgetfulness of all 
things, and sometimes into the sleep of death, 


The following story is from the Irish, as told by a native of one 
of the Western Isles, where the primitive superstitions have still 
all the freshness of young life. 

One evening late in November, which is the month when spirits 
have most power over all things, as the prettiest girl in all the 
island was going to the well for water, her foot slipped and she 
fell. It was an unlucky omen, and when she got up and looked 
round it seemed to her as if she were in a strange place, and all 
around her was changed as if by enchantment. But at some 
distance she saw a great crowd gathered round a blazing fire, and 
she was drawn slowly on towards them, till at last she stood in the 
very midst of the people ; but they kept silence, looking fixedly at 
her j and she was afraid, and tried to turn and leave them, but 
she could not. Then a beautiful youth, like a prince, with a red 


sash, and a golden band on his long yellow hair, came up and 
asked her to dance. 

" It is a foolish thing of you, sir, to ask me to dance," she eaid, 
u when there is no music." 

Then he lifted his hand and made a sign to the people, and 
instantly the sweetest music sounded near her and around her, and 
the young man took her hand, and they danced and danced till the 
moon and the stars went down, but she seemed like one floating on 
the air, and she forgot everything in the world except the dancing, 
and the sweet low music, and her beautiful partner. 

At last the dancing ceased, and her partner thanked her, and 
invited her to supper with the company. Then she saw an opening 
in the ground, and a flight of steps, and the young man, who 
seemed to be the king amongst them all, led her down, followed 
by the whole company. At the end of the stairs they came upon 
a large hall, all bright and beautiful with gold and silver and 
lights ; and the table was covered with everything good to eat, 
and wine was poured out in golden cups for them to drink. When 
she sat down they all pressed her to eat the food and to drink the 
wine ; and as she was weary after the dancing, she took the golden 
cup the prince handed to her, and raised it to her lips to drink. 
Just then, a man passed close to her, and whispered — 

" Eat no food, and drink no wine, or you will never reach your 
home again." 

So she laid down the cup, and refused to drink. On this they 
were angry, and a great noise arose, and a fierce, dark man stood 
up, and said— 

" Whoever comes to us must drink with us." 

And he seized her arm, and held the wine to her lips, so that 
she almost died of fright. But at that moment a red-haired man 
came up, and he took her "by the hand and led her out. 

" You are safe for this time," he said. "Take this herb, and 
hold it in your hand till you reach home, and no one can harm 
you." And he gave her a branch of a plant called the Atliair- 
Luss (the ground ivy).* 

This she took, and fled away along the sward in the dark night ; 
but all the time she heard footsteps behind her in pursuit. At 
last she reached home and barred the door, and went to bed, 
when a great clamour arose outside, and voices were heard crying 
to her — 

" The power we had over you is gone through the magic of the 
herb ; but wait — when you dance again to the music on the hill, 
you will stay with us for evermore, and none shall hinder." 

However, she kept the magic branch safely, and the fairies 
never troubled her more; but it was long and long before the 

* In Ancient Egypt the ivy was sacred to Osiris, and a safeguard against evil, 


sound of the fairy music left her ears which she had danced to 
that November night on the hillside with her fairy lover. 



The "Red-haired Man/' although he is considered very unlucky 
in actual life, yet generally acts in the fairy world as the benevolent 
Deus ex rnachina, that saves and helps and rescues the unhappy 
mortal, who himself is quite helpless under the fairy spells. 

There was a man in Shark Island who used to cross over to 
Boffin* to buy tobacco, but when the weather was too rough foi 
the boat his ill-temper was as bad as the weather, and he used to 
beat his wife, and fling all the things about, so that no one could 
stand before him. One day a man came to him. 

" "What will you give me if I go over to Boffin," said he, " and 
bring you the tobacco ? " 

" I will give you nothing," said the other. " Whatever way 
you go I can go also." 

" Then come with me to the shore," said the first man, " and 
I'll show you how to get across ; but as only one can go, you must 
go alone." 

And as they went down to the sea, they saw a great company 
of horsemen and ladies galloping along, with music and laughter, 

" Spring up now on a horse and you will get across," said the 
first man. 

So the other sprang up as he was told, and in an instant they 
all jumped right across the sea and landed at Boffin. Then he 
ran to buy the tobacco and was back again in a minute, and found 
all the same company by the sea-shore. He sprang again upon a 
horse and they all jumped right into the sea, but suddenly stopped 
midway between the two islands, where there was a great rock, 
and beyond this they could not force the horses to move. Then 
there was great disquietude amongst them, and they called a 

" There is a mortal amongst us," they said. u Let us drown him." 

And they carried the man up to the top of the rock and cast 
him down ; and when he rose to the surface again they caught 
him by the hair, and cried — 

" Drown him ! Drown him ! We have the power over life and 
death ; he must be drowned." 

* The correct names for these islands are Innis-Erk (the Island of St. 
Erk), and Innis-bo-fmn (the Island of the White Cow). 


And they Were going to cast him down a second time, when a 
red-haired man pleaded for him, and carried him off with a strong 
hand safe to shore. 

"Now/' said he, " you are safe, but mind, the spirits are watch- 
ing you, and if ever again you beat your poor good wife, and knock 
about the things at home just to torment her out of her life, you 
will die upon that rock as sure as fate." And he vanished. 

So from that time forth the man was as meek as a mouse, for he 
was afraid; and whenever he went by the rock in his boat he 
always stopped a minute, and said a little prayer for his wife with 
a " God bless her." And this kept away the evil, and they both 
lived together happily ever after to a great old age. 

This is but a rude tale. Yet the moral is good, and the threat 
of retributive justice shows a laudable spirit of indignation on the 
part of the fairy race against the tyranny of man over the weaker 


An ethical purpose is not often to be detected in the Irish legends* ; 
but the following tale combines an inner meaning with the inci- 
dents in a profound and remarkable manner. The idea that under- 
lies the story is very subtle and tragic; Calderon or Goethe might 
have founded a drama on it ; and Browning's genius would find a 
fitting subject in this contrast between the pride of the audacious, 
self-relying sceptic in the hour of his triumph and the moral agony 
that precedes his punishment and death. 

In former days there were great schools in Ireland where every 
sort of learning was taught to the people, and even the poorest 
had more knowledge at that time than many a gentleman has now. 
But as to the priests, their learning was above all, so that the 
fame of Ireland went over the whole world, and many kings from 
foreign lands used to send their sons all the way to Ireland to be 
brought up in the Irish schools. 

Now at this time there was a little boy learning at one of them 
who was a wonder to every one for his cleverness. His parents 
were only labouring people, and of course very poor ; but young 
as he was, and poor as he was, no king's or lord's son could come 
up to him in learning. Even the masters were put to shame, for 
when they were trying to teach him he would tell them something 
they never heard of before, and show them their ignorance. One 
of his great triumphs was in argument ; and he would go on till 
he proved to you that black was white, and then when you gave 
in, for no one could beat him in talk, he would turn round and 
show you that white was black, or may be that there was no colour 



at all in the world. When lie grew up his poor father and mother 
were so proud of him that they resolved to make him a priest, 
which they did at last, though they nearly starved themselves to 
get the money. "Well, such another learned man was not in 
Ireland, and he was as great in argument as ever, so that no one 
could stand before him. Even the Bishops tried to talk to him, 
but he showed them at once they knew nothing at all. 

Now there were no schoolmasters in those times but it was the 
priests taught the people ; and as this man was the cleverest in 
Ireland all the foreign kings sent their sons to him as long as 
he had house-room to give them. So he grew very proud, and 
began to forget how low he had been, and worst of all, even to 
forget God, who had made him what he was. And the pride of 
arguing got hold of him, so that from one thing to another he went 
on to prove that there was no Purgatory, and then no Hell, and 
then no Heaven, and then no God ; and at last that men had no 
souls, but were no more than a dog or a cow, and when they died 
there was an end of them. " Who ever saw a soul ? " he would 
say. li If you can show me one, I will believe." No one could 
make any answer to this ; and at last they all came to believe 
that as there was no other world, every one might do what they 
liked in this ; the priest setting the example, for he took a beauti- 
ful young girl to wife. But as no priest or bishop in the whole 
land could be got to marry them, he was obliged to read the 
service over for himself. It was a great scandal, yet no one dared 
to say a word, for all the kings' sons were on his side, and would 
have slaughtered any one who tried to prevent his wicked goings- 
on. Poor boys ! they all believed in him, and thought every word 
he said was the truth. In this way his notions began to spread 
about, and the whole world was going to the bad, when one night 
an angel came down from Heaven, and told the priest he had but 
twenty-four hours to live. He began to tremble, and asked for a 
little more time. 

But the angel was stiff, and told him that could not be. 

" What do you want time for, you sinner ? " he asked. 

" Oh, sir, have pity on my poor soul ! " urged the priest. 

" Oh, ho 1 You have a soul, then/' said the angel. " Pray, how 
did you find that out ? " 

"It has been fluttering in me ever since you appeared/' 
answered the priest. "What a fool I was not to think of it 

" A fool indeed," said the angel. " What good was all your 
learning, when it could not tell you that you had a soul ? " 

" Ah, my lord," said the priest, " if I am to die, tell me how 
soon I may be in Heaven ? " 

" Never," replied the angel. " You denied there was a Heaven," 

u Then, my lord, may I go to Purgatory ? " 


" You denied Purgatory also ; you must go straight to Hell," 
said the angel. 

" But, my lord, I denied Hell also," answered the priest, " so 
you can't send me there either." 

The angel was a little puzzled. 

" Well/' said he, " I'll tell you what I can do for you. You 
may either live now on earth for a hundred years enjoying every 
pleasure, and then be cast into Hell for ever ; or you may die in 
twenty-four hours in the most horrible torments, and pass through 
Purgatory, there to remain till the Day of Judgment, if only you 
can find some one person that believes, and through his belief 
mercy will be vouchsafed to you and your soul will be saved." 

The priest did not take five minutes to make up his mind. 

" I will have death in the twenty-four hours," he said, " so that 
my soul may be saved at last," 

On this the angel gave him directions as to what he was to do, 
and left him. 

Then, immediately, the priest entered the large room where all 
his scholars and the kings' sons were seated, and called out to 
them — 

"Now, tell me the truth, and let none fear to contradict me. 
Tell me what is your belief. Have men souls ? " 

" Master," they answered, " once we believed that men had souls ; 
but, thanks to your teaching, we believe so no longer. There is 
no Hell, and no Heaven, and no God. This is our belief, for it is 
thus you taught us." 

Then the priest grew pale with fear and cried out — " Listen ! I 
taught you a lie. There is a God, and man has an immortal soul. 
I believe now all I denied before." 

But the shouts of laughter that rose up drowned the priest's 
voice, for they thought he was only trying them for argument. 

" Prove it, master," they cried, " prove it. Who has ever seen 
God ? Who has ever seen the soul ? " 

And the room was stirred with their laughter. 

The priest stood up to answer them, but no word could he 
utter ; all his eloquence, all his powers of argument had gone fiom 
him, and he could do nothing but wring his hands and cry out — 

"There is a God ! there is a Godl Lord have mercy on my 

And they all began to mock him, and repeat his own words 
that he had taught them — 

u Show him to us ; show us your God." 

And he fled from them groaning with agony, for he saw that 
none believed, and how then could his soul be saved ? 

But he thought next of his wife. 

" She will believe," he said to himself, u Women never give up 



And lie went to her ; but she told him that she believed only 
•what he taught her, and that a good wife should believe in her 
husband first, and before and above all things in heaven or 

Then despair came on him, and he rushed from the house and 
began to ask every one he met if they believed. But the same 
answer came from one and all — " We believe only what you have 
taught us/' for his doctrines had spread far and wide through the 

Then he grew half mad with fear, for the hours were passing. 
And he flung- himself down on the ground in a lonesome spot, 
and wept and groaned in terror, for the time was coming fast 
when he must die. 

Just then a little child came by. 

" God save you kindly," said the child to him. 

The priest started up. 

" Child, do you believe in God ? " he asked. 

" I have come from a far country to learn about Him," said tne 
child. " Will your honour direct me to the best school that they 
have in these parts ? " 

" The best school and the best teacher is close by," said the 
priest, and he named himself. 

"Oh, not to that man," answered the child, "for I am told he 
denies God, and Heaven, and Hell, and even that man has a soul, 
because we can't see it ; but I would soon put him down." 

The priest looked at him earnestly. " How ? " he inquired. 

" Why," said the child, " I would ask him if he believed he had 
life to show me his life." 

" But he could not do that, my child," said the priest. a Life 
cannot be seen ; we have it, but it is invisible." 

" Then if we have life, though we cannot see it, we may also 
have a soul, though it is invisible," answered the child. 

When the priest heard him speak these words he fell down on 
his knees before him, weeping for joy, for now he knew his soul 
was safe ; he had met at last one that believed. And he told the 
child his whole story: all his wickedness, and pride, and blas- 
phemy against the great God ; and how the angel had come to 
him and told him of the only way in which he could be saved, 
through the faith and prayers of some one that believed. 

"Now then," he said to the child, "take this penknife and 
strike it into my breast, and go on stabbing the flesh until you 
see the paleness of death on my face. Then watch — for a living 
thing will soar up from my body as I die, and you will then know 
that my soul has ascended to the presence of God. And when you 
see this thing, make haste and run to my school and call on all my 
scholars to come and see that the soul of their master has left the 
body, and that all he taught them was a lie, for that there is a 


God who punishes sin, and a Heaven and a Hell, and that man 
has an immortal soul, destined for eternal happiness or misery." 

" I will pray," said the child, " to have courage to do this work." 

And he kneeled down and prayed. Then when he rose up he 
took the penknife and struck it into the priest's heart, and struck 
and struck again till all the flesh was lacerated; hut still the 
priest lived though the agony was horrible, for he could not die 
until the twenty-four hours had expired. At last the agony 
seemed to cease, and the stillness of death settled on his face. 
Then the child, who was watching, saw a beautiful living 
creature, with four snow white wings, mount from the dead 
man's body into the air and go fluttering round his head. 

So he ran to bring the scholars ; and when they saw it they all 
knew it was the soul of their master, and they watched with 
wonder and awe until it passed from sight into the clouds. 

And this was the first butterfly that was ever seen in Ireland ; 
and now all men know that the butterflies are the souls of the 
dead waiting for the moment when they may enter Purgatory, 
and so pass through torture to purification and peace. 

But the schools of Ireland were quite deserted after that time, 
for people said, What is the use of going so far to learn when the 
wisest man in all Ireland did not know if he had a soul till he was 
near losing it; and was only saved at last through the simple 
belief of a little child ? 

The allusion in this clever tale to the ancient Irish schools is 
based on historical fact. From the seventh to the tenth century 
Ireland was the centre of learning. The great Alfred of England 
was a student at one of the famous Irish seminaries, along with 
other royal and noble youths, and there formed a life-long friend- 
ship with the learned Adamnanl who often afterwards was a 
welcome guest at the Court of King Alfred. Other eminent 
Irishmen are known to history as the teachers and evangelizers 
of Europe. Alcuin, the Irish monk, became the friend and secre- 
tary of Charlemagne, and founded, at Aix-la-Chapelle, the first 
Grammar School in the imperial dominions. And the celebrated 
Clemens and Albinus, two Irishmen of distinguished ability and 
learning, aided the emperor not only in educating the people, but 
also to found a school for the nobles within his own palace. 


Thb Sidhe, or spirit race, called also the Feadh-Mee, or fairies, 
are eupposed tp have been once angels in heaven, who were oast 


out by Divine command as a punishment for their inordinate 

Some fell to earth, and dwelt there, long before man was created, 
as the first gods of the earth. Others fell into the sea, and they 
built themselves beautiful fairy palaces of crystal and pearl under- 
neath the waves; but on moonlight nights they often come up on 
the land, riding their white horses, and they hold revels with their 
fairy kindred of the earth, who live in the clefts of the hills, and 
they dance together on the greensward under the ancient trees, 
and drink nectar from the cups of the flowers, which is the fairy 

Other fairies, however, are demoniacal, and given to evil and 
malicious deeds ; for when cast out of heaven they fell into hell, 
and there the devil holds them under his rule, and sends them 
forth as he wills upon missions of evil to tempt the souls of men 
downward by the false glitter of sin and pleasure. These spirits 
dwell under the earth and impart their knowledge only to certain 
evil persons chosen of the devil, w r ho gives them power to make 
incantations, and brew love potions, and to work wicked spells, 
and they can assume different forms by their knowledge and use 
of certain magical herbs. 

The witch women who have been taught- by them, and have 
thus become tools of the Evil One, are the terror of the neigh- 
bourhood ; for they have all the power of the fairies and all the 
malice of the devil, who reveals to them secrets of times and days, 
and secrets of herbs, and secrets of evil spells ; and by the power 
of magic they can effect all their purposes, whether for good 
or ill. 

The fairies of the earth are small and beautiful. They passion- 
ately love music and dancing, and live luxuriously in their palaces 
under the hills and in the deep mountain caves ; and they can 
obtain all things lovely for their fairy homes, merely by the 
strength of their magic power. They can also assume all forms, 
and will never know death until the last day comes, when their 
doom is to vanish away — to be annihilated for ever. But they 
are very jealous of the human race who are so tall and strong, and 
to whom has been promised immortality. And they are often 
tempted by the beauty of a mortal woman and greatly desire to 
have her as a wife. 

The children of such marriages have a strange mystic nature, 
and generally become famous in music and song. But they are 
passionate, revengeful, and not easy to live with. Every one 
knows them to be of the Sidhe or spirit race, by their beautiful 
eyes and their bold, reckless temperament. 

The fairy king and princes dress in green, with red caps bound 
on the head with a golden fillet. The fairy queen and the great 
court ladies are robed in glittering silver gauze, spangled with 


diamonds, and their long golden hair sweeps the ground as they 
dance on the greensward. 

Their favourite camp and resting-place is under a hawthorn 
tree, and a peasant would die sooner than cut down one of the 
ancient hawthorns sacred to the fairies, and which generally 
stands in the centre of a fairy ring. But the people never offer 
worship to these fairy beings, for they look on the Sidhe as a race 
quite inferior to man. At the same time they have an immense 
dread and fear of the mystic fairy power, and never interfere 
with them nor offend them knowingly. 

The Sidhe often strive to carry off the handsome children, who 
are then reared in the beautiful fairy palaces under the earth, 
and wedded to fairy mates when they grow up. 

The people dread the idea of a fairy changeling being left in 
the cradle in place of their own lovely child ; and if a wizened 
little thing is found there, it is sometimes taken out at night and 
laid in an open grave till morning, when they hope to find their 
own child restored, although more often nothing is found save the 
cold corpse of the poor outcast. 

Sometimes it is said the fairies carry off the mortal child for a 
sacrifice, as they have to offer one every seven years to the devil 
in return for the power he gives them. And beautiful young girls 
are carried off, also, either for sacrifice or to be wedded to the 
fairy king. 

The fairies are pure and cleanly in their habits, and they like 
above all things a pail of water to be set for them at nighty in 
case they may wish to bathe. 

Thejr also delight in good wines, and are careful to repay the 
donor in blessings, for they are truly upright and honest. The 
great lords of Ireland, in ancient times, used to leave a keg of the 
finest Spanish wine frequently at night out on the window-sill for 
the fairies, and in the morning it was all gone. 

Fire is a great preventative against fairy magic, for fire is the 
most sacred of all created things, and man alone has power over 
it. No animal has ever yet attained the knowledge of how to 
draw out the spirit of fire from the stone or the wood, where it 
has found a dwelling-pdace. If a ring of fire is made round cattle 
or a child's cradle, or if fire is placed under the churn, the fairies 
have no power to harm. And the spirit of the fire is certain to 
destroy all fairy magic, if it exist. 


The ordeal by fire is the great test adopted by the peasants to 
try if a child or any one is fairy-struck. There was a man in 


Mayo who was bedridden for months and months, and though he 
ate up all the food they brought him, he never grew a bit 
stronger, and on Sundays when they went to mass, they locked 
him up and left him alone in the place with plenty of food. Now 
there was a fine field close by, and one Sunday, coming home from 
mass earlier than usual, they saw a great company of people bowl- 
ing in the field, and the sick man amongst them, but at that 
moment he vanished away ; and when the family reached home, 
there was the sick man lying fast asleep in his bed. 

" Get up," they said, " for we have seen you bowling with the 
fairies, and you sha'n't eat or drink any more at our expense." 

But he refused, and said he was too ill to move. Then they 
made down a large fire of turf and said, " Get up, or we'll lay you 
on the fire and break the fairy spell." And they took hold of him 
to burn him. Then he was frightened, and rose up and went out 
at the door, and they watched him till he stopped in the field 
where the hurlers played, and lay down there in the grass ; but 
when they went up to him he was dead. 

A man going to his work one morning early saw two women 
going up to a house, and one said, " There is a beautiful boy in 
this house, go in and hand it out to me, and we'll leave the dead 
child in its place." And the other went in at the window as she 
was told, and handed out a sleeping child, and took the dead child 
and laid it in the bed within. Now the man saw it was fairy 
work, and he went over and made the sign of the cross on the 
sleeping child, whereupon the two women shrieked as if they had 
been struck, and fled away, dropping the child on the grass. Then 
the man took it up gently, and put it under his coat, and went 
away to his wife, 

" Here," he said, " take care of this child till I come back, and 
burn a turf beside the cradle to keep off the fairies." 

When he passed by the house again, where he had seen the 
two women, he heard a great crying and lamentation; and he 
entered in and asked what ailed them. 

" See here," said the mother, u my child is dead in its cradle. 
It died in the night, and no one near." And she wept bitterly. 

" Be comforted," said the man ; " this is a fairy changeling, your 
child is safe ! " and he told her the story. " Now," he said, " if 
you don't believe me, just lay this dead child on the fire, and we'll 
see what will happen." 

So she made down a good fire, and took the dead child in her 
arms, and laid it on the hot turf, saying, " Burn, burn, burn — if 
of the devil, burn; but if of God and the Saints, be safe from 
harm." And the child no sooner felt the fire than it sprang up 
the chimney with a cry and disappeared, 



About a hundred years ago there lived a woman in Joyce County, 
of whom all the neighbours were afraid, for she had always plenty 
of money, though no one knew how she came by it ; and the best 
of eating and drinking went on at her house, chiefly at night — 
meat and fowls and Spanish wines in plenty for all comers. And 
when people asked how it all came, she laughed and said, " I have 
paid for it," but would tell them no more. 

So the word went through the county that she had sold herself 
to the Evil One, and could have everything she wanted by merely 
wishing and willing, and because of her riches they called her 
"The Lady Witch." 

She never went out but at night, and then always with a bridle 
and whip in her hand ; and the sound of a horse galloping was 
heard often far on in the night along the roads near her house. 

Then a strange story was whispered about, that if a young man 
drank of her Spanish wines at supper and afterwards fell asleep, 
she would throw the bridle over him and change him to a horse, 
and ride him all over the country, and whatever she touched with 
her whip became hers. Fowls, or butter, or wine, or the new- 
made cakes — she had but to wish and will and they were carried 
by spirit hands to her house, and laid in her larder. Then when 
the ride was done, and she had gathered enough through the 
country of all she wanted, she took the bridle off the young man, 
and he came back to his own shape and fell asleep ; and when he 
awoke he had no knowledge of all that had happened, and the 
Lady Witch bade him come again and drink of her Spanish wines 
as often as it pleased him. 

Now there was a fine brave young fellow in the neighbourhood, 
and he determined to make out the truth of the story. So he 
often went back and forwards, and made friends with the Lady 
Witch, and sat down to talk to her, but always on the watch. 
And she took a great fancy to him and told him he must come to 
supper some night, and she would give him the best of everything, 
and he must taste her Spanish wine. 

So she named the night, and he went gladly, for he was filled 
with curiosity. And when he arrived there was a beautiful supper 
laid, and plenty of wine to drink ; and he ate and drank, but was 
cautious about the wine, and spilled it on the ground from his 
glass when her head was turned away. Then he pretended to be 
very sleepy, and she said — 

" My son, you are weary. Lie down there on the bench and 
sleep, for the night is far spent, and you are far from your home." 

So he lay down as if he were quite dead with sleep, and closed 
his eyes, but watched her all the time, 


And she came over in a little while and looked at him steadily, 
but he never stirred, only breathed the more heavily. 

Then she went softly and took the bridle from the wall, and 
stole over to fling it over his head ; but he started up, and, seizing 
the bridle, threw it over the woman, who was immediately changed 
into a spanking grey mare. And he led her out and jumped on 
her back and rode away as fast as the wind till he came to the 

" Ho, smith," he cried, " rise up and shoe my mare, for she is 
weary after the journey." 

And the smith got up and did his work as he was bid, well and 
strong. Then the young man mounted again, and rode back like 
the wind to the house of the Witch; and there he took off the 
bridle, and she immediately regained her own form, and sank 
down in a deep sleep. 

But as the shoes had been put on at the forge without saying 
the proper form of words, they remained on her hands and feet, 
and no power on earth could remove them. 

So she never rose from her bed again, and died not long after 
of grief and shame. And not one in the whole country would 
follow the coffin of the Lady "Witch to the grave ; and the bridle 
was burned with fire, and of all her riches nothing was left but a 
handful of ashes, and this was flung to the four points of earth 
and the four winds of heaven ; so the enchantment was broken 
and the power of the Evil One ended. 


The fairies, as we know, are greatly attracted by the beauty of 
mortal women, and Finvarra the king employs his numerous 
sprites to find out and carry off when possible the prettiest girls 
and brides in the country. These are spirited away by enchant- 
ment to his fairy palace at Knockma in Tuam, where they remain 
under a fairy spell, forgetting all about the earthly life and 
soothed to passive enjoyment, as in a sweet dream, by the soft low 
melody of the fairy music, which has the power to lull the hearer 
into a trance of ecstasy. 

There was once a great lord in that part of the country who had 
a beautiful wife called Ethna, the loveliest bride in all the land. 
And her husband was so proud of her that day after day he had 
festivals in her honour ; and from morning till night his castle 
was filled with lords and ladies, and nothing but music and 
dancing and feasting and hunting and pleasure was thought of. 

One evening while the feast was merriest, and Ethna floated 


through the dance in her robe of silver gossamer clasped with 
jewels, more bright and beautiful than the stars in heaven, she 
suddenly let go the hand of her partner and sank to the floor in a 

They carried her to her room, where she lay long quite in- 
sensible ; but towards the morning she woke up and declared that 
she had passed the night in a beautiful palace, and was so happy 
that she longed to sleep again and go there in her dreams. And 
they watched by her all day, but when the shades of evening fell 
dark on the castle, low music was heard at her window, and Ethna 
again fell into a deep trance from which nothing could rouse her, 

Then her old nurse was set to watch her ; but the woman grew 
weary in the silence and fell asleep, and never awoke till the sun 
had risen. And when she looked towards the bed, she saw to her 
horror that the young bride had disappeared. The whole house- 
hold was roused up at once, and search made everywhere, but no 
trace of her could be found in all the castle, nor in the gardens, 
nor in the park. Her husband sent messengers in every direction, 
but to no purpose — no one had seen her ; no sign of her could be 
found, living or dead. 

Then the young lord mounted his swiftest steed and galloped 
right off to Knockma, to question Finvarra, the fairy king, if he 
could give any tidings of the bride, or direct him where to search 
for her ; for he and Finvarra were friends, and many a good keg 
of Spanish wine had been left outside the window of the castle at 
night for the fairies to carry away, by order of the young lord. 
But he little dreamed now that Finvarra himself was the traitor ; 
so he galloped on like mad till he reached Knockma, the hill of 
the fairies. 

And as he stopped to rest his horse by the fairy rath, he heard 
voices in the air above him, and one said — 

" Right glad is Finvarra now, for he has the beautiful bride in 
his palace at last ; and never more will she see her husband's 

" Yet," answered another, "if he dig down through the hill to 
the centre of the earth, he would find his bride ; but the work is 
hard and the way is difficult, and Finvarra has more power than 
any mortal man." 

" That is yet to be seen," exclaimed the young lord. " Neither 
fairy, nor devil, nor Finvarra himself shall stand between me and 
my fair young wife ; " and on the instant he sent word by his 
servants to gather together all the workmen and labourers of the 
country round with their spades and pickaxes, to dig through the 
hill till they came to the fairy palace. 

And the workmen came, a great crowd of them, and they dug 
through the hiM all that day till a great deep trench was made 
down to the very centre, Then at sunset they left off for the 


night ; but next morning when they assembled again to continue 
their work, behold, all the clay was put back again into the trench, 
and the hill looked as if never a spade had touched it — for so 
Finvarra had ordered ; and he was powerful over earth and air 
and sea. 

But the young lord had a brave heart, and he made the men go 
on with the work ; and the trench was dug again, wide and deep 
into the centre of the hill. And this went on for three days, but 
always with the same result, for the clay was put back again each 
night and the hill looked the same as before, and they were no 
nearer to the fairy palace. 

Then the young lord was ready to die for rage and grief, but 
suddenly he heard a voice near him like a whisper in the air, and 
the words it said were these — 

(( Sprinkle the earth you have dug up with salt, and your work 
will be safe." 

On this new life came into his heart, and he sent word through 
all the country to gather salt from the people ; and the clay was 
sprinkled with it that night, when the men had left off their work 
at the hill. 

Next morning they all rose up early in great anxiety to see 
what had happened, and there to their great joy was the trench all 
safe, just as they had left it, and all the earth round it was 

Then the young lord knew he had power over Finvarra, and he 
bade the men work on with a good heart, for they would soon 
reach the fairy palace now in the centre of the hill. So by the 
next day a great glen was cut right through deep down to the 
middle of the earth, and they could hear the fairy music if they 
put their ear close to the ground, and voices were heard round 
them in the air. 

" See now," said one, " Finvarra is sad, for if one of those mortal 
men strike a blow on the fairy palace with their spades, it will 
crumble to dust, and fade away like the mist." 

" Then let Finvarra give up the bride," said another, " and we 
shall be safe." 

On which the voice of Finvarra himself was heard, clear like 
the note of a silver bugle through the hill. 

" Stop your work," he said. " Oh, men of earth, lay down your 
spades, and at sunset the bride shall be given back to her husband. 
I, Finvarra, have spoken." 

Then the young lord bade them stop the work, and lay down 
their spades till the sun went down. And at sunset he mounted 
his great chestnut steed and rode to the head of the glen, and 
watched and waited ; and just as the red light flushed all the sky, 
he saw his wife coming along the path in her robe of silver 
gossamer, more beautiful than ever \ and he sprang from the 


Saddle and lifted her up before him, and rode away like the storm 
wind back to the castle. And there they laid Ethna on her bed ; 
but she closed her eyes and spake no word. So day after day 
passed, and still she never spake or smiled, but seemed like one in 
a trance. 

And great sorrow fell upon every one, for they feared she had 
eaten of the fairy food, and that the enchantment would never be 
broken. So her husband was very miserable. But one evening 
as he was riding home late, he heard voices in the air, and one of 
them said — 

u It is now a year and a day since the young lord brought home 
his beautiful wife from Finvarra ; but what good is she to him ? 
She is speechless and like one dead ; for her spirit is with the 
fairies though her form is there beside him." 

Then another voice answered — 

" And so she will remain unless the spell is broken. He must 
unloose the girdle from her waist that is fastened with an en- 
chanted pin, and burn the girdle with fire, and throw the ashes 
before the door, and bury the enchanted pin in the earth ; then 
will her spirit come back from Fairy-land, and she will once more 
speak and have true life." 

Hearing this the young lord at once set spurs to his horse, and 
on reaching the castle hastened to the room where Ethna lay on 
her couch silent and beautiful like a waxen figure. Then, being 
determined to test the truth of the spirit voices, he untied the 
girdle, and after much difficulty extracted the enchanted pin from 
the folds. But still Ethna spoke no word ; then he took the girdle 
and burned it with fire, and strewed the ashes before the door, 
and he buried the enchanted pin in a deep hole in the earth, under 
a fairy thorn, that no hand might disturb the spot. After which 
he returned to his young wife, who smiled as she looked at him, 
and held forth her hand. Great was his joy to see the soul 
coming back to the beautiful form, and he raised her up and 
kissed her ; and speech and memory came back to her at that 
moment, and all her former life, just as if it had never been broken 
or interrupted ; but the year that her spirit had passed in Fairy- 
land seemed to her but as a dream of the night, from which she 
had just awoke. 

After this Finvarra made no further efforts to carry her off ; 
but the deep cut in the hill remains to this day, and is called 
(t The Fairy's Glen." So no one can doubt the truth of the story 
as here narrated. 



The fairies have a great objection to the fairy raths, where they 
meet at night, being built upon by mortal man. A farmer called 
Johnstone, having plenty of money, bought some land, and chose 
a beautiful green spot to build a house on, the very spot the 
fairies loved best. 

The neighbours warned him that it was a fairy rath ; but he 
laughed and never minded (for he was from the north), and 
looked at such things as mere old-wives' tales. So he built the 
house and made it beautiful to live in ; and no people in the 
country were so well off as the Johnstones, so that the people said 
the farmer must have found a pot of gold in the fairy rath. 

But the fairies were all the time plotting how they could 
punish the farmer for taking away their dancing ground, and for 
cutting down the hawthorn bush where they held their revels 
when the moon was full. And one day when the cows were 
milking, a little old woman in a blue cloak came to Mrs. Johnstone 
and asked her for a porringer of milk. 

"Go away," said the mistress of the house, " you shall have no 
milk from me. I'll have no tramps coming about my place." And 
she told the farm servants to chase her away. 

Some time after, the best and finest of the cows sickened and 
gave no milk, and lost her horns and teeth and finally died. 

Then one day as Mrs. Johnstone was sitting spinning flax in the 
parlour, the same little woman in the blue cloak suddenly stood 
before her, 

" Your maids are baking cakes in the kitchen," she said ; " give 
me some off the griddle to carry away with me." 

" Go out of this," cried the farmer's wife, angrily ; u you are a 
wicked old wretch, and have poisoned my best cow." And she 
bade the farm servants drive her off with sticks. 

Now the Johnstones had one only child ; a beautiful bright boy, 
as strong as a young colt, and as full of life and merriment. But 
soon after this he began to grow queer and strange, and was dis- 
turbed in his sleep; for he said the fairies came round him at 
night and pinched and beat him, and some sat on his chest and he 
could neither breathe nor move. And they told him they would 
never leave him in peace unless he promised to give them a supper 
every night of a griddle cake and a porringer of milk. So to 
soothe the child the mother had these things laid every night on 
a table beside his bed, and in the morning they were gone. 

But still the child pined away, and his eyes got a strange, wild 
look, as if he saw nothing near or around him, only something far, 
far away that troubled his spirit. And when they asked him 
What ailed him, he said the fairies carried him away to the hills 


every night, where lie danced and danced with them till the 
morning, when they "brought him back and laid him again in his 

At last the farmer and his wife were at their wits' end from 
grief and despair, for the child was pining away before their eyes, 
and they could do nothing for him to help him. One night he 
cried out in great agony — 

" Mother ! mother 1 send for the priest to take away the fairies, 
for they are killing me ; they are here on my chest, crushing me 
to death," and his eyes were wild with terror. 

Now the farmer and his wife believed in no fairies, and in no 
priest, but to soothe the child they did as he asked and sent for 
the priest, who prayed over him and sprinkled him with holy 

The poor little fellow seemed calmer as the priest prayed, and 
he said the fairies were leaving him and going away, and then he 
sank into a quiet sleep. But when he woke in the morning he 
told his parents that he had a beautiful dream and was walking 
in a lovely garden with the angels ; and he knew it was heaven, 
and that he would be there before night, for the angels told him 
they would come for him. 

Then they watched by the sick child all through the night, for 
they saw the fever was still on him, but hoped a change would 
come before morning j for he now slept quite calmly with a smile 
on his lips. 

But just as the clock struck midnight he awoke and sat up, and 
when his mother put her arms round him weeping, he whispered 
to her — "The angels are here, mother," and then he sank back, 
and so died. 

Now after this calamity the farmjr never held up his head. 
He ceased to mind his farm, and the crops went to ruin and the 
cattle died, and finally before a year and a day were over he was 
laid in the grave by the side of his little son ; and the land passed 
into other hands, and as no one would live in the house it was 
pulled down. No one, either, would plant on the rath ; so the 
grass grew again all over it, green and beautiful, and the fairies 
danced there once more in the moonlight as they used to do in the 
old time, free and happy ; and thus the evil spell was broken for 

But the people would have nothing to do with the childless 
mother, so she went away back to her own people, a broken- 
hearted, miserable woman — a warning to all who would arouse 
the vengeance of the fairies by interfering with their ancient 
rights and possessions and privileges, 




The Phouka is a friendly being, and often helps the farmer at 
his work if he is treated well and kindly. One day a farmer's 
son was minding cattle in the field when something rushed past 
him like the wind ; but he was not frightened, for he knew it 
was the Phouka on his way to the old mill by the moat where 
the fairies met every night. So he called out, " Phouka, Phouka ! 
show me what you are like, and I'll give you my big coat to keep 
you warm." Then a young bull came to him lashing his tail like 
mad ; but Phadrig threw the coat over him, and in a moment he 
was quiet as a lamb, and told the boy to come to the mill that 
night when the moon was up, and he would have good luck. 

So Phadrig went, but saw nothing except sacks of corn all 
lying about on the ground, for the men had fallen asleep, and no 
work was done. Then he lay down also and slept, for he was 
very tired : and when he woke up early in the morning there was 
all the meal ground, though certainly the men had not done it, 
for they still slept. And this happened for three nights, after 
which Phadrig determined to keep awake and watch. 

Now there was an old chest in the mill, and he crept into this 
to hide, and just looked through the keyhole to see what would 
happen. And exactly at midnight six little fellows came in, each 
carrying a sack of corn upon his back ; and after them came an 
old man in tattered rags of clothes, and he bade them turn the 
mill, and they turned and turned till all was ground. 

Then Phadrig ran to tell his father, and the miller determined 
to watch the next night with his son, and both together saw the 
same thing happen. 

"Now," said the farmer, "I see it is the Phouka's work, and 
let him work if it pleases him, for the men are idle and lazy and 
only sleep. So I'll pack the whole set off to-morrow, and leave 
the grinding of the corn to this excellent old Phouka." 

After this the farmer grew so rich that there was no end to his 
money, for he had no men to pay, and all his corn was ground 
without his spending a penny. Of course the people wondered 
much over his riches, but he never told them about the Phouka, 
or their curiosity would have spoiled the luck. 

Now Phadrig went often to the mill and hid in the chest that 
he might watch the fairies at work ; but he had great pity for 
the poor old Phouka in his tattered clothes, who yet directed 
everything and had hard work of it sometimes keeping the little 
Phoukas in order. So Phadrig, out of love and gratitude, bought 
a fine suit of cloth and silk and laid it one night on the floor of 


the mill just where the old Phouka always stood to give his 
orders to the little men, and then he crept into the chest to watch. 

" How is this ? " said the Phouka when he saw the clothes. 
" Are these for me ? I shall he turned into a fine gentleman." 

And he put them on, and then hegan to walk up and down 
admiring himself. But suddenly he remembered the corn and 
went to grind as usual, then stopped and cried out — 

" No, no. No more work for me. Fine gentlemen don't grind 
corn. I'll go out and see a little of the world and show my fine 
clothes." And he kicked away the old rags into a corner, and 
went out. 

No corn was ground that night, nor the next, nor the next ; 
all the little Phoukas ran away, and not a sound was heard in the 
mill. Then Phadrig grew very sorry for the loss of his old friend, 
and used to go out into the fields and call out, " Phouka, Phouka ! 
come back to me. Let me see your face." But the old Phouka 
never came hack, and all his life long Phadrig never looked on 
the face of his friend again. However, the farmer had made so 
much money that he wanted no more help ; and he sold the mill, 
and reared up Phadrig to be a great scholar and a gentleman, who 
had his own house and land and servants. And in time he 
married a beautiful lady, so beautiful that the people said she 
must be daughter to the king of the fairies. 

A strange thing happened at the wedding, for when they all 
stood up to drink the bride's health, Phadrig saw beside him a 
golden cup filled with wine. And no one knew how the golden 
cup had come to his hand ; but Phadrig guessed it was the 
Phouka's gift, and he drank the wine without fear and made his 
bride drink also. And ever after their lives were happy and 
prosperous, and the golden cup was kept as a treasure in the 
family, and the descendants of Phadrig have it in their possession 
to this day. 


The fairies, with their free, joyous temperament and love of 
beauty and luxury, hold in great contempt the minor virtues of 
thrift and economy, and, above all things, abhor the close, hard, 
niggardly nature that spends grudgingly and never gives freely. 
Indeed, they seem to hold it as their peculiar mission to punish 
such people, and make them suffer for the sins of the hard heart 
and niggard hand, as may be seen by the following tale : — ■ 

A farmer once lived near the Boyne, close to an old churchyard. 
He was very rich, and had crops and cattle, but was so hard and 
avaricious that the people hated him ; for his habit was to get up 



very early in the morning and go out to the fields to watch that 
no one took a cabbage or a turnip, or got a cup of milk when the 
cows were being milked, for the love of God and the saints. 

One morning, as he was out as usual by sunrise spying about 
the place, he heard a child crying bitterly — 

" Oh, mother, mother! I am hungry. Give me something, or 
I'll die." 

" Hush, darling/' said the mother, " though the hunger is on 
you, wait; for the farmer's cow will be milked presently, and I'll 
knock down the pail so the milk will be spilt upon the ground, 
and you can drink your fill.'* * 

When the farmer heard this he sent a stout man to watch tlra 
girl that milked, and to tie the cow's feet that she should not 
kick. So that time no milk was spilled upon the ground. 

Next morning he went out again by sunrise, and he heard the 
child crying more bitterly even than before — 

" Mother, mother ! I am hungry. Give me to eat." 

" Wait, my child," said the mother ; " the farmer's maid bakes 
cakes to-day, and 111 make the dish to fall just as she is carrying 
them from the griddle. So we shall have plenty to eat this 

Then the farmer went home and locked up the meal, and 
said — 

" No cakes shall be baked to-day, not till the night." 

But the cry of the child was in his ears, and he could not rest. 
So early in the morning he was out again, and bitter was the cry 
of the child as he passed the copse — 

" Mother, mother ! " it said, " I have had no milk, I have had 
no cake ; let me lay down my head on your breast and die." 

" Wait," said the mother, " some one will die before you, my 
darling. Let the old man look to his son, for he will be killed in 
-battle before many days are over; and then the curse will be 
lifted from the poor, and we shall have food in plenty." 

But the farmer laughed. " There is no war in Ireland now," 
he said to himself. " How then can my son be killed in battle P " 
And he went home to his own house, and there in the courtyard 
was his son cleaning his spear and sharpening his arrows. He 
was a comely youth, tall and slender as a young oak-tree, and his 
brown hair fell in long curls over his shoulders. 

" Father," he said, " I am summoned by the king, for he is at 
war with the other kings. So give me the swiftest horse you have, 
for I must be off to-night to join the king's men. And see, I 
have my spears and arrows ready." 

Now at that time in Ireland there were four great kings, and 
each of them had two deputies. And the king of Leinster made 

* The fairies have a right to whatever is spilt or falls upon the ground. 


a great feast for the deputies, and to seven of them he gave a 
brooch of gold each, hut to the eighth only a brooch of silver, for, 
he said, the man is not a prince like the others. Then the eighth 
deputy was angry, and he struck the king's page full in the face 
for handing him the brooch. On this all the knights sprang up 
and drew their swords, and some took one part and some another, 
and there was a great fight in the hall. And afterwards the four 
kings quarrelled, and the king of Leinster sent out messengers to 
bid all his people come to help him. So the farmer's son got the 
message as well as the others, and he made ready at once to join 
the battle with a proud heart for the sake of the king and a 
young man's love of adventure. 

Then the farmer was filled with rage. 

" This is the wicked work of the witch woman," he said ; " but 
as I would not give her the milk to spill, nor the cakes when 
baked, so I will not give her the life of my only son." 

And he took large stones and built up great walls the height of 
a man, round a hut, and set a great stone at the top to close it, 
only leaving places for a vessel of food to be handed down. And 
he placed the lad within the hut. 

" Now," he said, " the king shall not have him, nor the king's 
men ; he is safe from the battle and the spears of the warriors." 

So the next morning he rose up quite content, and was out at 
sunrise as usual ; and as he walked by the churchyard, he heard 
the child laughing. And the mother said — 

" Child, you laugh by a grave. For the farmer's son will be 
laid in that ground before three days are over, and then the curse 
will be lifted from the poor. He would not let the milk be 
spilled, nor the cakes to be baked, but he cannot keep his son from 
death. The spell is on him for evil." 

Then a voice said — 

"But his father has walled him round in a hut with strong 
walls, high as a man. How then can he die in battle ? " 

And the woman answered — 

" I climbed the hut last night and gave him nine stones, and 
bade him throw them one by one over his left shoulder, and each 
time a stone of the wall would fall down, till free space was left 
him to escape, and this he did ; and before sunrise this morning 
he fled away, and has joined the king's army; but his grave 
is ready, and in three days he will be in this ground, for his doom 
is spoken." 

When the farmer heard these words, he rushed like mad to the 
hut, and called his son by name ; but no answer came. Then he 
climbed up and looked in through the hole at the top, but no sign 
of his son was there. And he wrung his hands in despair, and 
went home and spake no word, but sat moaning with his head 
buried in his hands, 



And on the third day he heard the steps of men outside, and he 
rose tip, for he knew they were bearing the body of his dead son 
to the door. And he went out to meet them, and there lay the 
corpse of the young man on the bier, pale and beautiful, struck 
through and through by a spear, even as he had died in battle. 

And they laid him in the churchyard, just as the witch-woman 
had foretold, while all the people wept, for the young man was 
noble to look upon, and of a good and upright spirit. 

But the father neither spoke nor wept. His mind was gone, 
and his heart was broken. And soon he lay down and died, un- 
pitied by all ; for he was hard and cruel in his life, and no man 
wept for him ; and all the riches he had gathered by grinding 
down the poor melted away, and his race perished from the 
land, and his name was heard of no more, and no blessing rested 
on his memory. 


Down in the South there lived another rich farmer and his wife, 
who were both of them hated by the people for their stingy, 
hard-hearted ways. Never a word of kindness was on their lips, 
and never a blessing from the poor was invoked on their heads. 

One day an old woman came to the door to beg a little food — a 
cake from the griddle, or a few potatoes, or a handful of meal ; 
but she was harshly refused by the farmer's wife and turned 

Then she came back in a little while, and begged for a drink of 
milk, for she was faint and weary, she said, and had travelled far. 
This was also refused, and she was ordered to leave the place at 
once. But the woman still begged hard for leave to rest herself 
a little, and for even a drink of butter milk, for it was churning 
day and she knew there must be plenty in the house. Then the 
farmer's wife grew very angry, and said she would turn the dogs 
on her if she didn't go away, and that no tramp should get any- 
thing from her. On this the woman muttered some words, with 
her hand on the lintel of the door, and then went her way. Soon 
after, being much heated by the violence of her anger, the 
farmer's wife went to the dairy for a drink ; but as she poured 
out the draught she saw something black in the cup, and she tried 
to take it out with her finger, but it always escaped her. Then, 
being very thirsty, she drank off the milk, and still another and 
another cup, and in the drinking the black object disappeared. 
That night, however, she felt nigh to death, for her body began 
to swell, and turned black all over. Medical aid was sent for, but 
the doctor could make out nothing of the cause or nature of the 


strange disease. Then the priest was summoned, and he at once, 
having heard the story, said there was witchcraft in it ; and he 
proceeded to pray, and to exorcise the evil spirit in the woman. 
Besides this he made her be placed in a hot hath, into which he 
poured some holy water. 

At first the woman uttered fierce cries, and said her body 
seemed rent and torn ; but gradually she became calmer, and the 
blackness slowly went down from head to feet, and finally disap- 
peared, leaving the body fair and whole, all except one hand, and 
this remained still as black as ink. The holy water was poured on 
it, and the priest prayed, but nothing would remove the devil's 

So the priest told her at last that the blackness would remain as 
a sign and token of her sins against the poor ; and from that day 
forth to her death the mark of the evil spell remained on her, but 
she grew kinder to the poor, for her heart was shaken by terror. 
And when she came to die there was no blackness on her hand, 
for the tears of the poor she had succoured and befriended had 
washed all the devil's mark away, before the moment came when 
her soul was to appear before God, 


A peasant's tale. 

One evening a man called Shawn Ruadh was out looking for a red 
cow that had strayed away, when he heard voices round him, and 
one said " Get me a horse," and another cried " Get me a horse." 

" And get me a horse, too/' said Shawn, " since they seem so 
>lenty, for I'd like a ride along with you," and with that he found 
imself on the instant mounted on a fine grey horse beside another 
man who rode a black horse. And they rode away and away till 
they came to a great city. 

" Now, do you know where you are ? " said the black horseman. 
(i You are in London, and whatever you want you 'can have." 

" Thank you kindly, my friend," said the other, "so, with your 
leave, I'll just have a good suit of clothes, for I'm much in want 
of that same. Can I have them ? " 

" By all means," said the black horseman ; " there, go into that 
merchant's shop and ask for what you like, and if he refuses just 
throw the stone I give you on the floor and the whole place will 
seem on fire. But don't be frightened; only wait your good 

So Shawn went into the biggest shop there, and he spoke to tho 
merchant quite stiff and proud. 



" Show me the best suit of clothes you have/ 1 said he, " Never 
mind the price, that's of no consequence, only be very particular 
as to the fit." 

But the shopman laughed aloud. 

" We don't make clothes for beggars like you/' he said. " Be 
off out of this." 

Then Shawn threw down the stone on the floor, and immediately 
the whole place seemed on fire, and the merchant ran out himself 
and all the shopmen after him to get pails of water, and Shawn 
laughed when he saw them all drenched. 

" Now what will you give me," said he, " if I put out the fire 
for you?" 

u You shall have the price of the best suit of clothes in the 
shop," answered the merchant, " all paid down in gold ; only help 
me to put out the fire." 

So Shawn stooped down and picked up the stone, and put it 
quietly into his pocket, and instantly all the flames disappeared: 
and the merchant was so grateful that he paid him down all the 
gold for the clothes and more. And Shawn bid him good-night, 
and mounted the grey steed again quite happy in himself. 

" Now," said the black horseman, " is there anything else you 
desire ? for it is near ten o'clock, and we must be back by 
midnight ; so just say what you would like to do." 

" Well," said Shawn Buadh, " I would like of all things to see 
the Pope of Rome, for two of our priests are disputing as to who 
is to get the parish, and I want Father M'Grath to have it, for I 
have a great opinion of him, and if I ask his Holiness he'll settle 
it all in no time and for ever." 

" Come then," said the black horseman ; " it is a long way to 
Borne, certainly, but I think we'll manage it in the two hours, and 
be back before twelve o'clock." 

So away they rode like the wind, and in no time Shawn found 
himself before the great palace of the Pope ; and all the grand 
servants with gold sticks in their hands stared at him, and asked 
him what he wanted. 

" Just go in," said he, " and tell his Holiness that Shawn Buadh, 
all the way from Ireland, is here and wants to see him very 

But the servants laughed, and struck him with their gold sticks 
and hunted him away from the gate. Now the Pope hearing the 
rout looked out of the window, and seeing Shawn Buadh he 
came down and asked him what he wanted. 

u Just this, your Holiness," answered Shawn, " I want a letter 
on behalf of Father M'Grath bidding the Bishop give him the 
parish, and I'll wait till your Holiness writes it ; and meanwhile 
let me have a little supper, for it's hungry I am after my long 


Then the Pope laughed, and told the servants to drive the 
fellow away, for he was evidently out of his wits. 

So Shawn grew angry, and flung down the stone on the floor, 
and instantly all the palace seemed on fire, and the Pope ordered 
the grand servants to go for water ; and they had to run about 
like mad getting pails and jugs of water, whatever they could lay 
hands on ; and all their fine clothes were spoiled, and the beautiful 
gold sticks were flung away in their fright, while they took the 
jugs and splashed and dashed the water over each other. 

Now it was Shawn's turn to laugh till his sides ached, but his 
Holiness looked very grave. 

"Well," said Shawn, "if I put out the fire what will you do 
for me ? Will you write that letter ? " 

" Ay, I will," said the Pope, " and you shall have your supper 
also ; only help us to put out the fire, my fine fellow." 
_/ So Shawn quietly put the stone back in his pocket, and instantly 
all the flames disappeared. 

" Now," said the Pope, " you shall have supper of the best in the 
palace ; and 111 write a letter to the Bishop ordering him to give 
Father M'Grath the parish. And here, besides, is a purse of gold 
for yourself, and take it with my blessing." 

Then he ordered all the grand servants to get supper for the 
excellent young man from Ireland, and to make him comfortable. 
So Shawn was mightily pleased, and ate and drank like a prince. 
Then he mounted his grey steed again, and just as midnight struck 
he found himself at his own door, but all aione ; for the grey steed 
and the black horseman had both vanished. But there stood his 
wife crying her eyes out and in great trouble. 

" O Shawn, Agra ! I thought you were dead] or that evil had 
fallen on you." 

" Not a bit of it," said Shawn, " I've been supping with the 
Pope of Home, and look here at all the gold I've brought home 
for you, my darlint." 

And he put his hand in his pocket to get the purse j but lo ! 
there was nothing there except a rough, grey stone. And 
from that hour to this his wife believes that he dreamed the whole 
story as he lay under the hay-rick, on his way home from a carouse 
with the boys. 

However, Father M'Grath got the parish, and Shawn took good 
care to tell him how he had spoken up boldly for him to the 
Pope of Rome, and made his Holiness write the letter to 
the Bishop about him. And Father M'Grath was a nice gentle- 
man, and he smiled and told Shawn he thanked him kindly for 
his good word. 



The Leprehauns are merry, industrious, tricksy little sprites, 
who do all the shoemaker's work and the tailor's and the cobbler's 
for the fairy gentry, and are often seen at sunset under the hedge 
singing and stitching. They know all the secrets of hidden 
treasure, and if they take a fancy to a person will guide him to 
the spot in the fairy rath where the pot of gold lies buried. It is 
believed that a family now living near Oastlerea came by their 
riches in a strange way, all through the good offices of a friendly 
Leprehaun. And the legend has been handed down through many 
generations as an established fact. 

There was a poor boy once, one of their forefathers, who used 
to drive his cart of turf daily back and forward, and make what 
money he could by the sale ; but he was a strange boy, very silent 
and moody, and the people said he was a fairy changeling, for he 
joined in no sports and scarcely ever spoke to any one, but spent 
the nights reading all the old bits of books he picked up in his 
rambles. The one thing he longed for above all others was to get 
rich, and to be able to give up the old weary turf cart, and live in 
peace and quietness all alone, with nothing but books round him, 
in a beautiful house and garden all by himself. 

Now he had read in the old books how the Leprehauns knew all 
the secret places where gold lay hid, and day by day he watched 
for a sight of the little cobbler, and listened for the click, click of 
his hammer as he sat under the hedge mending the shoes. 

At last, one evening just as the sun set, he saw a little fellow 
under a dock leaf, working away, dressed all in green, with a cocked 
hat on his head. So the boy jumped down from the cart and 
seized him by the neck. 

" Now, you don't stir from this," he cried, " till you tell me 
where to find the hidden gold." 

" Easy now," said the Leprehaun, " don't hurt me, and I will 
tell you all about it. But mind you, I could hurt you if I chose, 
for I have the power ; but I won't do it, for we are cousins once 
removed. So as we are near relations I'll just be good, and show 
you the place of the secret gold that none can have or keep except 
those of fairy blood and race. Come along with me, then, to the 
old fort of Lipenshaw, for there it lies. But make haste, for when 
the last red glow of the sun vanishes the gold will disappear also, 
and you will never find it again." 

" Come off, then," said the boy, and he carried the Lepre- 
haun into the turf cart, and drove off. And in a second they 
were at the old fort, and went in through a door made in the 
stone wall. 

* Leprehaun, or Leith Brogan> means the " Artisan of the Brogae." 


" Now, look round," said the Leprehaun ; and the boy saw the 
whole ground covered with gold pieces, and there were vessels of 
silver lying about in such plenty that all the riches of all the 
world seemed gathered there. 

" Now take what you want," said the Leprehaun, " but 
hasten, for if that door shuts you will never leave this place as 
long as you live." 

So the boy ga;Iiered up his arms full of gold 'and silver, and 
flung them into the cart ; and was on his way back for more when 
the door shut with a clap like thunder, and all the place became 
dark as night. And he saw no more of the Leprehaun, and had 
not time even to thank him. 

So he thought it best to drive home at once with his treasure, 
and when he arrived and was all alone by himself he counted his 
riches, and all the bright yellow gold pieces, enough for a king's 

And he was very wise and told no one ; but went off next day 
to Dublin and put all his treasures into the bank, and found that 
he was now indeed as rich as a lord. 

So he ordered a fine house to be built with spacious gardens, 
and he had servants and carriages and books to his heart's con- 
tent. And he gathered all the wise men round him to give him 
the learning of a gentleman ; and he became a great and powerful 
man in the country, where his memory is still held in high 
honour, and his descendants are living to this day rich and pros- 
perous; for their wealth has never decreased though theyliave ever 
given largely to the poor, and are noted above all things for the 
friendly heart and the liberal hand. 

But the Leprehauns can be bitterly malicious if they are 
offended, and one should be very cautious in dealing with them, 
and always treat them with great civility, or they will take revenge 
and never reveal the secret of the hidden gold. 

One day a young lad was out in the fields at work when he saw 
a little fellow, not the height of his hand, mending shoes under a 
dock leaf. And he went over, never taking his eyes off him for 
fear he would vanish away; and when he got quite close he 
made a grab at the creature, and lifted him up and put him in 
his pocket. 

Then he ran away home as fast as he could, and when he had 
the Leprehaun safe in the house, he tied him by an iron chain to 
the hob. 

" Now, tell me," he said, " where am I to find a pot of gold ? 
Let me know the place or I'll punish you." 

" I know of no pot of gold," said the Leprehaun ; " but let me go 
that I may finish mending the shoes." 


" Then 111 make you tell me," said the lad. 

And with that he made down a great fire, and put the little 
fellow on it and scorched him. 

" Oh, take me off, take me off ! " cried the Leprehaun, " and 111 
tell you. Just there, under the dock leaf, where you found me, 
there is a pot of gold. Go ; dig and find." 

So the lad was delighted, and ran to the door ; but it so hap- 
pened that his mother was just then coming in with the pail of 
fresh milk, and in his haste he knocked the pail out of her hand, 
and all the milk was spilled on the floor. 

Then, when the mother saw the Leprehaun, she grew very angry 
and beat him. " Go away, you little wretch ! " she cried. " You 
have overlooked the milk and brought ill-luck." And she kicked 
him out of the house. 

But the lad ran off to find the dock leaf, though he came 
back very sorrowful in the evening, for he had dug and dug 
nearly down to the middle of the earth ; but no pot of gold was 
to be seen. 

That same night the husband was coming home from his work, 
and as he passed the old fort he heard voices and laughter, and one 
said — 

" They are looking for a pot of gold ; but they little know that 
a crock of gold is lying down in the bottom of the old quarry, hid 
under the stones close by the garden wall. But whoever gets it 
must go of a dark night at twelve o'clock, and beware of bringing 
his wife with him." 

So the man hurried home and told his wife he would go that 
very night, for it was black dark, and she must stay at home and 
watch for him, and not stir from the house till he came back. 
Then he went out into the dark night alone. 

" Now," thought the wife, when he was gone, " if I could only 
get to the quarry before him I would have the pot of gold all to 
myself ; while if he gets it I shall have nothing." 

And with that she went out and ran like the wind until she 
reached the quarry, and than she she began to creep down very 
quietly in the black dark. But a great stone was in her path, and 
she stumbled over it, and fell down and down till she reached 
the bottom, and there she lay groaning, for her leg was broken by 
the fall. 

Just then her husband came to the edge of the quarry and 
began to descend. But when he heard the groans he was 

" Cross of Christ about us ! " he exclaimed ; "what is that down 
below ? Is it evil, or is it good ? " 

" Oh, come down, come down and help me ! " cried the woman. 
" It's your wife is here, and my leg is broken, and I'll die if you 
don't help me." 


" And is this my pot of gold ? " exclaimed the poor man. 
"Only my wife with a broken leg lying at the bottom of the 

And he was at his wits' end to know what to do, for the night 
was so dark he could not see a hand before him. So he roused up 
a neighbour, and between them they dragged up the poor woman 
and carried her home, and laid her on the bed half dead from 
fright, and it was many a day before she was able to get about as 
usual ; indeed she limped all her life long, so that the people said 
the curse of the Leprehaun was on her. 

But as to the pot of gold, from that day to this not one of 
the family, father or son, or any belonging to them, ever set 
eyes on it. However, the little Leprehaun still sits under the 
dock leaf of the hedge and laughs at them as he mends the 
shoes with his little hammer — tick tack, tick tack — but they 
are afraid to touch him, for now they know he can take his 


In the islands off the West Coast of Ireland the inhabitants are 
still very primitive in their habits, and cling to their old super- 
stitions with a fanatical fervour that makes it dangerous for any 
one to transgress or disregard the old customs, usages, and 
prejudices of the islanders. 

Curses heavy and deep would fall on the head of the unbeliev- 
ing stranger who dared to laugh or mock at the old traditions of 
the ancient pagan creed, whose dogmas are still regarded with a 
mysterious awe and dread, and held sacred as a revelation from 

The chief islands are Aran and Innismore, the latter about 
nine miles long. The cattle live on the fine grass of the rocks, 
and turf is brought from the mainland. The views are magnificent 
of sea and mountain, and the islands contain a greater number of 
pagan and early Christian monuments than could be found in the 
same area in any other part of Europe. 

Some of the Duns or forts include several acres. The walls are 
cyclopean, about sixteen feet thick and from eighteen to twenty 
feet high, with steps inside leading to the top. Amongst the 
monuments are cromlechs, tumuli, and pillar stones, those earliest 
memorials set up by humanity. The Irish call these huge stones 
Bothal, or House of God, as the Hebrews called them Bethel, or 
God's house. 

Dun ^Engus, the greatest barbaric monument of the kind in 
existence, stands on a cliff three hundred feet above the sea. It 


is a hundred and forty-two feet in diameter, and has two Cyclo- 
pean walls fifteen* feet thick and eighteen high. The sea front 
measures a thousand feet, and several acres are included within 
the outer wall. The roof of the dun is formed of large flag-stones, 
and the doorway slopes, after the Egyptian fashion, up to three 
feet in width at the top. A causeway of sharp, upright stones 
jammed into the ground leads to the entrance. 

This fort was the great and last stronghold of the Firbolg race, 
and they long held it as a refuge against the Tuatha-de-Danann 
invaders, who at that time conquered and took possession of 

All the islands were originally peopled by the Firbolg race 
many centuries before the Christian era, and the Irish language, 
as still spoken by the people, is the purest and most ancient of 
all the dialects of Erin. Afterwards so many Christian saints 
took up their abode there that the largest of the islands was 
called Ara-na-naomh (Aran of the Saints), and numerous remains 
of churches, cells, crosses and stone-roofed oratories, with the 
ruins of a round tower, testify to the long habitation of the 
islands by these holy men. 

There is an old wooden idol on one of the Achil islands called 
Father Molosh — probably a corruption of Moloch. In former 
times offerings and sacrifices were made to it, and it was esteemed 
as the guardian or god of the sacred fire, and held in great rever- 
ence, though but a rude semblance of a human head. Many 
miracles also were performed by the tooth of St. Patrick, which 
fell from the saint s mouth one day when he was teaching the 
alphabet to the new converts. And a shrine was afterwards 
made for the tooth that was held in the greatest honour by the 
kings, chiefs, and people of Ireland. 

The stupendous barbaric monuments of the islands, according 
to Irish antiquarians, offer the best exposition of early military 
architecture at present known, and are only equalled by some of 
those in Greece. There are also many sacred wells, and the 
whole region is haunted by strange, wild superstitions of fairies 
and demons and witches ; legends filled with a weird and mystic 
poetry that thrill the soul like a strain of music from spirit voices 
coming to us from the far-off elder world. The following pa- 
thetic tale is a good specimen of these ancient island legends : — 


On a lone island by the West Coast there dwelt an old fisherman 
and his daughter, and the man had power over the water spirits, 
and he taught his daughter the charms that bind them to obey. 
One day a boat was driven on the shore, and in it was a young 


handsome gentleman, half dead from the cold and the wet. The 
old fisherman hrought him home and revived him, and Eileen the 
daughter nursed and watched him. Naturally the two young 
people soon fell in love, and the gentleman told the girl he had a 
beautiful house on the mainland ready for her, with plenty of 
everything she could desire — silks to wear and gold to spend. So 
they were betrothed, and the wedding day was fixed. But 
Dermot, the lover, said he must first cross to the mainland and 
bring back his friends and relations to the wedding, as many 
as the boat would hold. 

Eileen wept and prayed him not to leave, or at least to take 
her to steer the boat, for she knew there was danger coming, and 
she alone could have power over the evil spirits and over the 
waves and the winds. But she dared not tell the secret of the 
spell to Dermot or it would fail, and the charm be useless for ever 

Dermot, however, only laughed at her fears, for the day was 
bright and clear, and he scorned all thought of danger. So he 
put off from the shore, and reached the mainland safely, and 
filled the boat with his friends to return to the island for the 
wedding. All went well till they were within sight of the island, 
when suddenly a fierce gust of wind drove the boat on a rock, and 
it was upset, and all who were in it perished. 

Eileen heard the cry of the drowning men as she stood watching 
on the beach, but could give no help. And she was sore grieved 
for her lover, and sang a funeral wail for him in Irish, which 
is still preserved by the people. Then she lay down and died, 
and the old man, her father, disappeared. And from that day no 
one has ever ventured to live on the island, for it is haunted 
by the spirit of Eileen. And the mournful music of her wail 
is still heard in the nights when the winds are strong and the 
waves beat upon the rocks where the drowned men lay dead. 

The words of the song are very plaintive and simple, and may 
be translated literally — 

"la virgin and a widow mourn for my lover. 
Never more will he kiss me on the lips ; 
The cold wave is his bridal bed, 
The cold wave is his wedding shroud. 
O love, my love, had you brought me in the boat 
My spirit and my spells would have saved from harm. 
For my power was strong over waves and wind, 
And the spirits of evil would have feared me. 

love, my love, I go to meet you in heaven. 

1 will ask God to let me see your face. 

If the fair angels give me back my lover, 
I will not envy the Almighty on His throne." 



The island of Innis-Sark (Shark Island) was a holy and peaceful 
place in old times ; and so quiet that the pigeons used to come 
and build in a great cave by the sea, and no one disturbed them. 
And the holy saints of God had a monastery there, to which 
many people resorted from the mainland, for the prayers of 
the monks were powerful against sickness or evil, or the malice of 
an enemy. 

Amongst others, there came a great and noble prince out of 
Munster, with his wife and children and their nurse ; and they 
were so pleased with the island that they remained a year or 
more ; for the prince loved fishing, and often brought his wife 
along with him. 

One day, while they were both away, the eldest child, a 
beautiful boy of ten years old, begged his nurse to let him go and 
see the pigeons' cave, but she refused. 

" Your father would be angry/' she cried, " if you went 
without leave. Wait till he comes home, and see if he will allow 

So when the prince returned, the boy told him how he longed 
to see the cave, and the father promised to bring him next day. 

The morning was beautiful and the wind fair when they set 
off. But the child soon fell asleep in the boat, and never 
wakened all the time his father was fishing. The sleep, however, 
was troubled, and many a time he started and cried aloud. So 
the prince thought it better to turn the boat and land, and then 
the boy awoke. 

After dinner the father called for the child. " Tell me now," 
he said, "why was your sleep troubled, so that you cried out 
bitterly in your dream." 

" I dreamed," said the boy, " that I stood upon a high rock, 
and at the bottom flowed the sea, but the waves made no noise ; 
and as I looked down I saw fields and trees and beautiful flowers 
and bright birds in the branches, and I longed to go down and 
pluck the flowers. Then I heard a voice, saying, ' Blessed are 
the souls that come here, for this is heaven.' 

"And in an instant I thought I was in the midst of the 
meadows amongst the birds and the flowers ; and a lovely lady, 
bright as an angel, came up to me, and said, ' What brings you 
here, dear child ; for none but the dead come here/ 

" Then she left me, and I wept for her going ; when suddenly 
all the sky grew black, and a great troop of wild wolves came 
round me, howling and opening their mouths wide as if to devour 
me. And I screamed, and tried to run, but I could not move, and 
the wolves came closer, and I fell down like one dead with fright, 


when, just then, the beautiful lady came again, and took my 
hand and kissed me. 

"'Fear not/ she said, 'take these flowers, they come from 
heaven. And I will bring you to the meadow where they grow.' 

" And she lifted me up into the air, hut I know nothing more ; 
for then the boat stopped and you lifted me on shore, hut my 
beautiful flowers must have fallen from my hands, for I never 
saw them more. And this is all my dream ; but I would like to 
have my flowers again, for the lady told me they had the secret 
that would bring me to heaven." 

The prince thought no more of the child's dream, but went off 
to fish next day as usual, leaving the boy in the care of his nurse. 
And again the child begged and prayed her so earnestly to bring 
him to the pigeons' cave, that at last she consented ; but told him 
he must not go a step by himself, and she would bring two of the 
boys of the island to take care of him. 

So they set off, the child and his little sister with the nurse. 
And the boy gathered wild flowers for his sister, and ran down to 
the edge of the cave where the cormorants were swimming ; but 
there was no danger, for the two young islanders were minding 

So the nurse was content, and being weary she fell asleep. 
And the little sister lay down beside her, and fell asleep likewise. 

Then the boy called to his companions, the two young islanders, 
and told them he must catch the cormorants. So away they ran, 
down the path to the sea, hand in hand, and laughing as they 
went. Just then a piece of rock loosened and fell beside them, 
and trying to avoid it they slipped over the edge of the narrow 
path down a steep place, where there was nothing to hold on by 
except a large bush, in the middle of the way. They got hold of 
this, and thought they were now quite safe, but the bush was not 
strong enough to bear their weight, and it was torn up by the 
roots. And all three fell straight down into the sea and were 

Now, at the sound of the great cry that came up from the 
waves, the nurse awoke, but saw no one. Then she woke up the 
little sister. " It is late," she cried, " they must have gone home. 
"We have slept too long, it is already evening ; let us hasten and 
overtake them, before the prince is back from the fishing." 

But when they reached home the prince stood in the doorway. 
And he was very pale, and weeping. 

" Where is my brother ? " cried the little girl. 

" You will never see your brother more," answered the prince. 
And from that day he never went fishing any more, but grew 
silent and thoughtful, and was never seen to smile. And in a 
short time he and his family quitted the island, never to return. 

But the nurse remained. And some say she became a saint, for 


she was always seen praying and weeping by the entrance to the 
great sea cave. And one day, when they came to look for her, she 
lay dead on the rocks. And in her hand she held some beautiful 
strange flowers freshly gathered, with the dew on them. And no 
one knew how the flowers came into her dead hand. Only some 
fishermen told the story of how the night before they had seen a 
bright fairy child seated on the rocks singing ; and he had a red 
sash tied round his waist, and a golden circlet binding his long 
yellow hair. And they all knew that he was the prince's son, 
who had been drowned in that spot just a twelvemonth before. 
And the people believe that he had brought the flowers from the 
spirit-land to the woman, and given them to her as a death sign, 
and a blessed token from God that her soul would be taken to 


An ancient woman living at Innis-Sark said that in her youth she 
knew a young woman who had been married for five years, but 
had no children. And her husband was a rough, rude fellow, 
and used to taunt her and beat her often, because she was child- 
less. But in the course of time it came to pass that a man-child 
was born to her ; and he was beautiful to look on as an angel from 
heaven. And the father was so proud of the child that he often 
stayed at home to rock the cradle, and help his wife at the work. 

One day, however, as he rocked the cradle, the child looked up 
suddenly at him, and lo ! there was a great beard on its face. 
Then the father cried out to his wife — 

" This is not a child, but a demon ! You have put an evil spell 
on him." 

And he struck her and beat her worse than ever he had done in 
his life before, so that she screamed aloud for help. On this the 
place grew quite dark, and thunder rolled over their heads, and 
the door flew wide open with a great crash, and in walked two 
strange women, with red caps on their heads and stout sticks in 
their hands. And they rushed at the man, and one held his arms 
while the other beat him till he was nearly dead. 

" "We are the avengers," they said ; " look on us and tremble ; 
for if you ever beat your wife again, we will come and kill you. 
Kneel down now, and ask her pardon." 

And when the poor wretch did so, all trembling with fright, 
they vanished away. 

"Now," said the man, when they were gone, "this house is no 
fit place for me. I'll leave it for ever." 

So he went his way, and troubled his wife no more. 


Then the child sat up in the cradle. 

"Now, mother/' says he, "since that man has gone, I'll tell you 
what you are to do. There is a holy well near this that you have 
never seen, but you will know it by the bunch of green rushes that 
grows over the mouth. Go there and stoop down and cry out 
aloud three times, and an old woman will come up, and whatever 
you want she will give it to you. Only tell no one of the well or 
of the woman, or evil will come of it." 

So the mother promised, and went to the well, and cried out 
three times ; and an old woman came up, and said — 

" Woman, why dost thou call me ? " 

And the poor mother was afraid, and answered all trembling — 

" The child sent me, and I pray thee to do me good, and not 

" Come down, then, with me into the well," said the woman, 
(t and have no fear." 

So the mother held out her hand, and the other drew her down 
a flight of stone steps, and then they came to a massive closed 
door, and the old woman unlocked it and bade her enter. But the 
mother was afraid, and wept. 

" Enter," said the other, " and fear nothing. For this is the 
gate of the king's palace, and you will see the queen of the fairies 
herself, for it is her son you are nursing ; and the king, her 
husband, is with her on his golden throne. And have no fear, 
only ask no questions, and do as they order." 

Then they entered into a beautiful hall, and the floor was of 
marble, and the walls were of solid gold, and a great light shone over 
everything, so that the eyes could hardly see for the light. Then 
they passed on into another room, and at the end of it, on a golden 
throne, sat the king of the fairies. He was very handsome, and 
beside him sat his queen, fair and beautiful to look upon, all clad 
in silver. 

" This, madam, is the nurse of your son, the young prince," said 
the old woman. 

The queen smiled, and bade the nurse to sit down, and asked her 
how she came to know of the place. 

" My son it is who told her, said the king, looking very angry. 

But the queen soothed him, and turning to one of her ladies, 
said — 

" Bring here the other child." 

Then the lady brought in an infant, and placed him in the arms 
of the mother. 

" Take him," said the queen, " he is your own child, that we 
carried away, for he was so beautiful ; and the boy you have at 
home is mine, a little elfish imp. Still, I want him back, and I 
have sent a man to bring him here ; and you may take your own 
lovely child home in safety, for the fairy blessings are on him for 



food. And the man that beat you was not your husband at all, 
ut our messenger, that we sent to change the children. So now 
go back, and you will find your own true husband at home in your 
own place, watching and waiting for you by day and by night." 

With that the door opened, and the man who had beaten her 
came in ; and the mother trembled and was afraid. But the man 
laughed, and told her not to fear, but to eat what was set before 
her, and then to go in peace. 

So they brought her to another hall, where was a table covered 
with golden dishes and beautiful flowers, and red wine in crystal 

" Eat," they said ; " this feast has been prepared for you. As 
to us, we cannot touch it, for the food has been sprinkled with 

So she ate, and drank of the red wine, and never in all her life 
were so many things set before her that were lovely and good. 
And, as was right and proper, after dinner was over, she stood up, 
and folded her hands together to give God thanks. But they 
stopped her, and drew her down. 

" Hush ! " they said, " that name is not to be named here." 

There was an angry murmur in the hall. But just then beautiful 
music was heard, and singing like the singing of priests, and the 
poor mother was so enchanted that she fell on her face as one 
dead. And when she came to herself it was noonday, and she was 
standing by the door of her own house. And her husband came 
out and took her by the hand, and brought her in. And there was 
her child, more beautiful than ever, as handsome as a young 

" Where have you been all this while ?" asked the husband. 

<{ It is only an hour since I went away, to look for my child, 
that the fairies stole from me," she answered. 

" An hour ! " said the husband ; fi you have been three years 
away with your child ! And when you were gone, a poor sickly 
thing was laid in the cradle — not as big as a mushroom, and I 
knew well it was a fairy changeling. But it so happened that one 
day, a tailor came by, and stopped to rest ; and when he looked 
hard at the child, the ugly misshapen thing sat up quite straight 
in the cradle, and called out — 

u { Come now, what are you looking at ? Give me four straws 
to play with/ 

" And the tailor gave him the straws. And when he got them, 
the child played and played such sweet music on them as if they 
were pipes, that all the chairs and tables began to dance ; and 
when he grew tired, he fell back in the cradle and dropped asleep. 

" ( Now/ said the tailor, ' that child is not right ; but I'll tell 
you what to do. Make down a great fire to begin with/ 

"So we nrndd the fire. Then the tailor shut the door, mi 

TH£ DOOM. 67 

lifted the unlucky little wretch out of the cradle, and sat it on the 
fire. And no sooner had the flames caught it, than it shrieked 
aloud and flew up the chimney and disappeared. And when 
everything was burned that belonged to it, I knew you would 
come back to me with our own fine boy. And now let us name 
the name of God, and make the sign of the Cross over him, and 
ill luck will never again fall on our house — no more for ever." 

So the man and his wife lived happily from that day forth, and 
the child grew up and prospered, and was beautiful to look at and 
happy in his life ; for the fairy blessings were on him of health, 
wealth, and prosperity, even as the queen of the fairies had 
promised to the mother. 


There was a young man of Innismore, named James Lynan, noted 
through all the island for his beauty and strength. Never a one 
could beat him at hunting or wrestling, and he was, besides, the 
best dancer in the whole townland. But he was bold and reckless, 
and ever foremost in all the wild wicked doings of the young 
fellows of the place. 

One day he happened to be in chapel after one of these mad 
freaks, and the priest denounced him by name from the altar. 

u James Lynan," he said, " remember my words ; you will come 
to an ill end. The vengeance of God will fall on you for your 
wicked life ; and by the power that is in me I denounce you as 
an evil liver and a limb of Satan, and accursed of all good 

The young man turned pale, and fell on his knees before all the 
people, crying out bitterly, " Have mercy, have mercy j I repent, 
I repent," and he wept like a woman. 

t " Go now in peace," said the priest, " and strive to lead a new 
life, and 111 pray to God to save your soul." 

From that day forth James Lynan changed his ways. He gave 
tip drinking, and never a drop of spirits crossed his lips. And he 
began to attend to his farm and his business, in place of being at 
all the mad revels and dances and fairs and wakes in the island. 
Soon after he married a nice girl, a rich farmer's daughter, from 
the mainland, and they had four fine children, and all things pros- 
pered with him. 

But the priest's words never left his mind, and he would sud- 
denly turn pale and a shivering would come over him when the 
memory of the curse came upon him. Still he prospered, and his 
life was a model of sobriety and order, 



One day he and his wife and their children were asked to tte 
wedding of a friend about four miles off ; and James Lynan rode 
to the place, the family going on their own car. At the wedding 
he was the life of the party as he always was ; but never a drop 
of drink touched his lips. When evening came on, the family set 
out for the return home just as they had set out ; the wife and 
children on the car, James Lynan riding his own horse. But 
when the wife arrived at home, she found her husband's horse 
standing at the gate riderless and quite still. They thought he 
might have fallen in a faint, and went back to search ; when he 
was found down in a hollow not five perches from his own gate, 
lying quite insensible and his features distorted frightfully, as if 
seized while looking on some horrible vision. 

They carried him in, but he never spoke. A doctor was sent 
for, who opened a vein, but no blood came. There he lay like a 
log, speechless as one dead. Amongst the crowd that gathered 
round was an old woman accounted very wise by the people. 
" Send for the fairy doctor," she said ; " he is struck/' 
So they sent off a boy on the fastest horse for the fairy man. 
He could not come himself, but he filled a bottle with a potion. 
Then he said — 

" Ride for your life ; give him some of this to drink and sprinkle 
his face and hands also with it. But take care as you pass the 
lone bush on the round hill near the hollow, for the fairies are 
there and will hinder you if they can, and strive to break the 

Then the fairy man blew into the mouth and the eyes and the 
nostrils of the horse, and turned him round three times on the 
road and rubbed the dust off his hoofs. 

" Now go," he said to the boy ; " go and never look behind you, 
no matter what you hear." 

So the boy went like the wind, having placed the bottle safely 
in his pocket ; and when he came to the lone bush the horse started 
and gave such a jump that the bottle nearly fell, but the boy 
caught it in time and held it safe and rode on. Then he heard a 
Cluttering of feet behind him, as of men in pursuit ; but he never 
turned or looked, for he knew it was the fairies who were after 
him. And shrill voices cried to him, " Ride fast, ride fast, for the 
spell is cast ! " Still he never turned round, but rode on, and never 
let go his hold of the fairy draught till he stopped at his master's 
door, and handed the potion to the poor sorrowing wife. And she 
gave of it to the sick man to drink, and sprinkled his face and 
hands, after which he fell into a deep sleep. But when he woke 
up, though he knew every one around him, the power of speech 
was gone from him ; and from that time to his death, which 
happened soon after, he never uttered word more. 
Bo the doom of the priest was fulfilled — evil was his youth and 


evil was his fate, and sorrow and death found him at last, for the 
doom of the priest is as the word of God, 


To prove innocence of a crime a certain ancient form is gone 
through, which the people look on with great awe, and call it 
emphatically — "The Clearing." It is a fearful ordeal, and in- 
stances are known of men who have died of fear and trembling 
from having passed through the terrors of the trial, even if inno- 
cent. And it is equally terrible for the accuser as well as the 

On a certain day fixed for the ordeal the accused goes to the 
churchyard and carries away a skull. Then, wrapped in a white 
sheet, and bearing the skull in his hand, he proceeds to the house 
of the accuser, where a great crowd has assembled ; for the news 
of " A Clearing " spreads like wildfire, and all the people gather 
together as witnesses of the ceremony. There, before the house 
of his accuser, he kneels down on his bare knees, makes the sign 
of the cross on his face, kisses the skull, and prays for some time 
in silence ; the people also wait in silence, filled with awe and 
dread, not knowing what the result may be. Then the accuser, 
pale and trembling, comes forward and stands beside the kneeling 
man ; and with uplifted hand adjures him to speak the truth. On 
which the accused, still kneeling and holding the skull in his hand, 
utters the most fearful imprecation known in the Irish language ; 
almost as terrible as that curse of the Druids, which is so awful 
that it never yet was put into English words. The accused prays 
that if he fail to speak the truth all the sins of the man whose 
skull he holds may be laid upon his soul, and all the sins of his 
forefathers back to Adam, and all the punishment due to them for 
the evil of their lives, and all their weakness and sorrow both of 
body and soul be laid on him both in this life and in the life to 
come for evermore. But if the accuser has accused falsely and 
out of malice, then may all the evil rest on his head through this 
life for ever, and may his soul perish everlastingly. 

It would be impossible to describe adequately the awe with 
which the assembled people listen to these terrible words, and the 
dreadful silence of the crowd as they wait to see the result. If 
nothing happens the man rises from his knees after an interval, 
and is pronounced innocent by the judgment of the people, and 
no word is ever again uttered against him, nor is he shunned or 
slighted by the neighbours. But the accuser is looked on with fear 
and dislike ; he is considered unlucky, and seeing that his life ia 


often made so miserable by the coldness and suspicion of the 
people, many would rather suffer wrong than force the accused 
person to undergo so terrible a trial as " The Clearing*" 


The Well of St. Brendan, in High Island, has great virtue, but 
the miraculous power of the water is lost should a thief or a mur- 
derer drink of it. Now a cruel murder had been committed on 
the mainland, and the priest noticed the people that if the mur- 
derer tried to conceal himself in the island no one should harbour 
him or give him food or drink. It happened at that time there 
was a woman of the island afflicted with pains in her limbs, and 
she went to the Holy Well to make the stations and say the 
prayers, and so get cured. But many a day passed and still she 
got no better, though she went round and round the well on her 
knees, and recited the paters and aves as she was told. 

Then she went to the priest and told him the story, and he per- 
ceived at once that the well had been polluted by the touch of 
some one who had committed a crime. So he bade the woman 
bring him a bottle of the water, and she did as he desired. Then 
having received the water, he poured it out, and breathed on it 
three times in the name of the Trinity j when, lo ! the water 
turned into blood. 

" Here is the evil," cried the priest. " A murderer has washed 
his hands in the well." 

He then ordered her to make a fire in a circle, which she did, 
and he pronounced some words over it ; and a mist rose up with 
the form of a spirit in the midst, holding a man by the arm. 

" Behold the murderer," said the spirit ; and when the woman 
looked on him she shrieked — 

" It is my son ! my son ! " and she fainted. 

For the year before her son had gone to live on the main- 
land, and there, unknown to his mother, he had committed the 
dreadful murder for which the vengeance of God lay on him. 
And when she came to herself the spirit of the murderer was still 

u Oh, my Lord ! let him go, let him go ! " she cried. 

" You wretched woman ! " answered the priest. " How dare 
you interpose between God and vengeance. This is but the 
shadowy form of your son ; but before night he shall be in the 
hands of the law, and justice shall be done." 

Then the forms and the mist melted away, and the woman de- 
parted in tears, and not long after she died of a broken heart. 


But the well from that time regained all its miraculous powers, 
and the fame of its cures spread far and wide through all the 



There was a woman of the Island of Innis-Sark who was 
determined to take revenge on a man because he called her by an 
evil name. So she went to the Saints' Well, and, kneeling down, 
she took some of the water and poured it on the ground in the 
name of the devil, saying, " So may mj enemy be poured out like 
water, and lie helpless on the earth ! " Then she went round the 
well backwards on her knees, and at each station she cast a 
stone in the name of the devil, and said, " So may the curse fall 
on him, and the power of the devil crush him ! " After this she 
returned home. 

Now the next morning there was a stiff breeze, and some of the 
men were afraid to go out fishing ; but others said they would 
try their luck, and amongst them was the man on whom the curse 
rested. But they had not gone far from land when the boat was 
capsized by a heavy squall. The fishermen, however, saved them- 
selves by swimming to shore ; all except the man on whom the 
curse rested, and he sank like lead to the bottom, and the waves 
covered him, and he was drowned. 

When the woman heard of the fate that had befallen her 
enemy, she ran to the beach and clapped her hands with joy and. 
exulted. And as she stood there laughing with strange and horrid 
mirth, the corpse of the man she had cursed slowly rose up from 
the sea, and came drifting towards her till it lay almost at her 
very feet. On this she stooped down to feast her eyes on the 
sight of the dead man, when suddenly a storm of wind screamed 
past her, and hurled her from the point of rock where she stood. 
And when the people ran in all haste to help, no trace of her 
body could be seen. The woman and the corpse of the man she 
had cursed disappeared together under the waves, and were never 
seen again from that time forth. 

Another woman in Shark Island was considered to have an evil 
influence over any one she disliked. One day a man called her a 
devil's hag in his anger. The woman answered nothing, but that 
night she went to a Holy "Well near the place, and kneeling down, 
invoked a curse in the name of the devil. Then she went round 


the well three times backward on her knees, and each time threw 
a stone in the name of the devil, saying, " So may the curse fall on 
his head ! " Then she returned home, and told the people to wait 
for three days, and they would see her words had power. During 
this time the man was afraid to go out in his boat because of the 
curse. But on the third day as he was walking by the cliff he 
fell and broke his leg. And then every one knew that the woman 
had the witch-secret of evil, and she was held in much fear. 

The most effective way of neutralizing the evil influence is to 
spit on the object and say, " God bless it ! " But another must do 
it at your request, and sometimes people refuse, fearing to anger 
the fairies by interfering with their work, whether for good or 
evil. But the islanders have such faith in the anointing with spittle 
that they will often solicit a passing stranger to spit on the afflicted 
person. Indeed, a stranger is considered to have more power than 
a neighbour. 

A woman who kept a small day-school had reason to think that 
her son, a fine lad of twelve years old, was bewitched, for when 
he had eaten up the whole dish of stirabout at supper, he asked 
for more. And she said — 

" My son, you had enough for three men. Go to your bed and 

But next morning he was worse and more ravenous, for he ate 
up all the bread that his mother had made for the scholars just as 
she took it from the oven, and not a single cake was left. Then 
she knew that witchcraft was on the boy, and she stood by the 
door to watch for a stranger. At last one came by, and she cried 
to him — 

" Come in, come in, for the love of God, and spit on the face of 
my son 1 " 

" Why should I spit on your son, O woman ? " he answered ; 
and he fled away, for he thought she was mad. 

Then she sent for the priest, and his reverence poured holy 
water over him, and laid his hands upon his head while he prayed. 
So, after a time, the power of the witchcraft was broken, and the 
boy was restored to his right mind. 

The islanders believe also that angels are constantly present 
amongst them, and all blessed things — the rain, and the dew, and 
the green crops — come from their power ; but the fairies often 
bring sickness, and will do malicious tricks, and lame a horse, or 
steal the milk and butter, if they have been offended or deprived 
of their rights. 

There are certain days on which it is not right to speak of the 


fairies. These days are Wednesdays and Fridays, for then they are 
present though invisible, and can hear everything, and lay their 
plans as to what they will carry off. On Friday especially their 
power for evil is very strong, and misfortunes are dreaded in the 
household. Therefore, on that day the children and cattle are 
strictly watched ; a lighted wisp of straw is turned round the 
baby's head, and a quenched coal is set under the cradle and under 
the churn. And if the horses are restive in the stable, then the 
people know the fairies are riding on their backs. So they spit 
three times at the animal, when the fairies scamper off. This 
cure by the saliva is the most ancient of all superstitions, and the 
islanders still have the greatest faith in its mysterious power and 

At Innisboffin the fairies hold a splendid court, with revelry 
and dancing, when the moon is full ; and it is very dangerous for 
young girls to be out at that time, for they will assuredly be 
carried off. And if they once hear the fairy music or drink of the 
fairy wine, they will never be the same again — a fate is on them, 
and before the year is out they will either disappear or die. 

And the fairies are always on the watch for the handsome girls 
or children ; for they look on mortals as of much higher race than 
themselves. And they are also glad to have the fine young men, 
the sons of mortal women, to assist them in their wars with each 
other ; for there are two parties amongst the fairy spirits, one a 
gentle race that loves music and dancing, the other that has ob- 
tained power from the devil, and is always trying to work evil. 

A young man lay down to sleep one Friday evening in summer 
under a hay-rick, and the fairies must have carried him off as he 
slept ; for when he w r oke he found himself in a great hall, where 
a number of little men were at work — some spinning, some making 
shoes, some making spears and arrow-heads out of fish-bones and 
elf -stones ; but all busy laughing and singing with much glee and 
merriment, while the little pipers played the merriest tunes. 

Then an old man who sat in the corner came over, and looking 
very angry, told him he must not sit there idle ; there were friends 
coming to dinner, and he must go down and help in the kitchen. 
So he drove the poor young fellow before him down into a great 
vaulted place, where a huge fire was burning, and a large pot was 
set over it. 

" Now," said the old man, " prepare the dinner. There is the 
old hag we are going to eat." 

And true enough, to his horror, on looking round^ there was an 
old woman hung up by the arms, and an old man skinning her. 

u Now make haste and let the water boil," said the old man ; 
"don't you see the pot on the fire, and I am nearly ready for you 
to begin. The company will soon be here, and there is no time 


to lose, for this old hag will take a good while to boil. Cut her 
up into little bits, and throw her into the pot." 

However, the young fellow was so frightened that he fell down 
On the floor speechless, and could neither move hand nor foot. 

u Get up, you fool," said another old man, who seemed to be 
the head over all ; and he laughed at him, " Do your work and 
never mind ; this does not hurt her a bit. When she was there 
above in the world she was a wicked miser, hard to the world, 
and cruel and bitter in her words and works ; so now we have her 
here, and her soul will never rest in peace, because we shall cut up 
the body in little bits, and the soul will not be able to find it, but 
wander about in the dark to all eternity without a body." 

Then the young man knew no more till he found himself in a 
beautiful hall, where a banquet was laid out ; but, in place of the 
old hag, the table was covered with fruit, and chickens, and young 
turkeys, and butter, and cakes fresh from the oven, and crystal 
cups of bright red wine. 

i( Now sit down and eat," said the prince, who sat at the top on 
a throne, with a red sash round his waist, and a gold band on his 
head. " Sit down with this pleasant company and eat with us j 
you are welcome." 

And there were many beautiful ladies seated round, and grand 
noblemen, with red caps and sashes ; and they all smiled at him 
and bade him eat. 

" No," said the young man ; li I cannot eat with you, for I see 
no priest here to bless the food. Let me go in peace." 

(i Not at least till you taste our wine," said the prince with a 
friendly smile. 

And one of the beautiful ladies rose up and filled a crystal cup 
with the bright red wine, and gave it him. And when he saw it, 
the sight of it tempted him, and he could not help himself, but 
drank it all off without stopping ; for it seemed to him the most 
delicious draught he ever had in his whole life. 

But no sooner had he laid down the glass, than a noise like 
thunder shook the building, and all the lights went out ; and he 
found himself alone in the dark night lying under the very same hay- 
rick where he had cast himself down to sleep, tired after his work. 
So he made his way home at last ; but the taste of the fairy wine 
burned in his veins, and a fever was on him night and day for 
another draught ; and he did no good, but pined away, seeking 
the fairy mansion, though he never found it any more. And so 
he died in his youth, a warning to all who eat of the fairy 
food, or drink of the fairy wine ; for never more will they know 
peace or content, or be fit for their work, as in the days before the 
fairy spell was on them, which brings doom and death to all who 
fall under the fatal enchantment of its unholy power. 



When young people die, either men or women, who were remark- 
able for beauty, it is supposed that they are carried off by the 
fairies to the fairy mansions under the earth, where they live in 
splendid palaces and are wedded to fairy queens or princes. But 
sometimes, if their kindred greatly desire to see them, they are 
allowed to visit the earth, though no enchantment has yet been 
discovered powerful enough to compel them to remain or resume 
again the mortal life. 

Sometimes when the fishermen are out they meet a strange boat 
filled with people ; and when they look on them they know that 
they are the dead who have been carried off by the fairies with 
their wiles and enchantments to dwell in the fairy palaces. 

One day a man was out fishing, but caught nothing ; and was 
just turning home in despair at his ill-luck when he suddenly saw 
a boat with three persons in it ; and it seemed to him that they 
were his comrades, the very men who just a year before had been 
drowned in that spot, but whose bodies were never recovered, and 
he knew that he looked upon the dead. But the men were 
friendly, and called out to him — 

" Cast your line as we direct, and you will have luck." 

So he cast his line as they bade him, and presently drew up a 
fine fish. 

" Now, cast again," they said, " and keep beside us, and row to 
shore, but do not look on us." 

So he did as directed and hauled up fish after fish till his boat 
was full, and then he drew it up to the landing-place. 

" Now," they said, " wait and see that no one is about before 
you land." 

So the man looked up and down the shore, but saw no one; 
then he turned to tend his fish, when, behold, the men and the 
second boat had vanished, and he saw them no more. However, 
he landed his fish with much joy and brought them all safely 
home, though the wise people said that if he had not turned away 
his head that time, but kept his eyes steadily on the men till he 
landed, the enchantment would have been broken that held them 
in fairy-land, and the dead would have been restored to the earthly 
life, and to their kindred in the island who mourned for them. 


A woman was out one day looking after her sheep in the valley, 
and coming by a little stream she sat down to rest, when suddenly 


she seemed to hear the sound of low music, and turning round, 
beheld at some distance a crowd of people dancing and making 
merry. And she grew afraid and turned her head away not to 
see them. Then close by her stood a young man, pale and strange 
looking, and she beheld him with fear, 

" Who are you ? " she said at last j " and why do you stand 
beside me ? " 

" You ought to know me/' he replied, " for I belong to this- 
place j but make haste now and come away, or evil will befall 

Then she stood up and was going away with him, when the 
crowd left off their dancing and ran towards them crying — 

" Come back ; come back ; come back ! " 

4t Don't stop ; don't listen," said the young man, " but follow me." 

Then they both began to run, and ran on until they reached a 

" Now we are safe," said he ; " they can't harm us here." And 
when they stopped he said to her again, " Look me in the face 
and say if you know me now ? " 

"No," she answered, " you are a stranger to me." 

" Look again," he said, "look me straight in the face and you 
will know me." 

Then she looked, and knew instantly that he was a man who 
had been drowned the year before in the dark winter time, and 
the waves had never cast up his body on the shore* And she 
threw up her arms and cried aloud — 

" Have you news of my child ? Have you seen her, my fair- 
haired girl, that was stolen from me this day seven years. Will 
she come back to me never no more P " 

" I have seen her," said the man, " but she will never come 
back, never more, for she has eaten of the fairy food and must 
now stay with the spirits under the sea, for she belongs to them 
body and soul. But go home now, for it is late, and evil is near 
you ; and perhaps you will meet her sooner than you think." 

Then as the women turned her face homeward, the man dis- 
appeared and she saw him no more. 

When at last she reached the threshold of her house a fear and 
trembling came on her, and she called to her husband that some 
one stood in the doorway and she could not pass. And with that 
she fell down on the threshold on her face, but spake no word 
more. And when they lifted her up she was dead, 


A young girl from Innis-Sark had a lover, a fine young fellow, 
who met his death by an accident, to her great grief and sorrow. 


One evening at sunset, as she sat by the roadside crying her 
eyes out, a beautiful lady came by all in white, and tapped her 
on the cheek. 

"Don't cry, Kathleen," she said, "your lover is safe. Just take 
this ring of herbs and look through it and you will see him. He 
is with a grand company, and wears a golden circlet on his head 
and a scarlet sash round his waist." 

So Kathleen took the ring of herbs and looked through it, and 
there indeed was her lover in the midst of a great company danc- 
ing on the hill ; and he was very pale, but handsomer than ever, 
with the gold circlet round his head, as if they had made him a 

" Now," said the lady, u here is a larger ring of herbs. Take it, 
and whenever you want to see your lover, pluck a leaf from it and 
burn it ; and a great smoke will arise, and you will fall into a 
trance ; and in the trance your lover will carry you away to the 
fairy rath, and there you may dance all night with him on the 
greensward. But say no prayer, and make no sign of the cross 
while the smoke is rising, or your lover will disappear for 

From that time a great change came over Kathleen. She said 
no prayer, and cared for no priest, and never made the sign of the 
cross, but every night shut herself up in her room, and burned a 
leaf of the ring of herbs as she had been told; and when the 
smoke arose she fell into a deep sleep and knew no more. But in 
the morning she told her people that, though she seemed to be 
lying in her bed, she was far away with the fairies on the hill 
dancing with her lover. And she was very happy in her new life, 
and wanted no priest nor prayer nor mass any more, and all the 
dead were there dancing with the rest, all the people she had 
known ; and they welcomed her and gave her wine to drink in 
little crystal cups, and told her she must soon come and stay with 
them and with her lover for evermore. 

Now Kathleen's mother was a good, honest, religious woman, 
and she fretted much o^er her daughter's strange state, for she 
knew the girl had been fairy-struck. So she determined to watch ; 
and one night when Kathleen went to her bed as usual all alone 
by herself m the room, for she would allow no one to be with her, 
the mother crept up and looked through a chink in the door, and 
then she saw Kathleen take the round ring of herbs from a secret 
place in the press and pluck a leaf from it and burn it, on which 
a great smoke arose and the girl fell on her bed in a deep trance. 

Now the mother could no longer keep silence, for she saw there 
was devil's work in itj and she fell on her knees and prayed 
aloud — 

" Maia, mother, send the evil spirit away from the child ! " 

And she rushed into the room and made the sign of the cress 


over the sleeping girl, when immediately Kathleen started up and 
screamed — 

"Mother! mother! the dead are coming for me. They are 
here ! they are here ! " 

And her features looked like one in a fit. Then the poor mother 
sent for the priest, who came at once, and threw holy water on 
the girl, and said prayers over her ; and he took the ring of herbs 
that lay beside her and cursed it for evermore, and instantly it 
fell to powder and lay like grey ashes on the floor. After this 
Kathleen grew calmer, and the evil spirit seemed to have left her, 
but she was too weak to move or to speak, or to utter a prayer, 
and before the clock struck twelve that night she lay dead. 


It is esteemed a very wrong thing amongst the islanders to be 
about on November Eve, minding any business, for the fairies 
have their flitting then, and do not like to be seen or watched ; 
and all the spirits come to meet them and help them. But mortal 
people should keep at home, or they will sutler for it ; for the 
souls of the dead have power over all things on that one night of 
the year ; and they hold a festival with the fairies, and drink red 
wine from the fairy cups, and dance to fairy music till the moon 
goes down. 

There was a man of the village who stayed out late one Novem- 
ber Eve fishing, and never thought of the fairies until he saw a 
great number of dancing lights, and a crowd of people hurrying 
past with baskets and bags, and all laughing and singing and 
making merry as they went along. 

" You are a merry set," he said, (( where are ye all going to P " 

" "We are going to the fair," said a little old man with a cocked 
hat and a gold band round it. " Come with us, Hugh King, and 
you will have the finest food and the finest drink you ever set eyes 

" And just carry this basket for me," said a little red-haired 

So Hugh took it, and went with them till they came to the fair, 
which was filled with a crowd of people he had never seen on the 
island in all his days. And they danced and laughed and drank 
red wine 'rom little cups. And there were pipers, and harpers, 
and little cobblers mending shoes, and all the most beautiful 
things in the world to eat and drink, just as if they were in a 
king s palace. But the basket was very heavy, and Hugh longed 
to drop it, that he might go and dance with a little beauty with 
long yellow hair, that was laughing up close to his face. 

" Well, here put down the basket," said the red-haired womanj 


u for you are quite tired, I see ; " and she took it and opened the 
cover, and out came a little old man, the ugliest, most misshapen 
little imp that could be imagined. 

" Ah, thank you, Hugh," said the imp, quite politely ; " you 
have carried me nicely ; for I am weak on the limbs — indeed I 
have nothing to speak of in the way of legs : but I'll pay you well, 
my fine fellow; hold out your two hands/' and the little imp 
poured down gold and gold and gold into them, bright golden 
guineas. " Now go," said he, " and drink my health, and make 
yourself quite pleasant, and don't be afraid of anything you see 
and hear." 

So they all left him, except the man with the cocked hat and 
the red sash round his waist. 

" Wait here now a bit," says he, i( for Finvarra, the king, is 
coming, and his wife, to see the fair." 

As he spoke, the sound of a horn was heard, and up drove a 
coach and four white horses, and out of it stepped a grand, grave 
gentleman all in black and a beautiful lady with a silver veil over 
her face. 

" Here is Finvarra himself and the queen," said the little old 
man ; but Hugh was ready to die of fright when Finvarra asked— 

" What brought this man here ? " 

And the king frowned and looked so black that Hugh nearly 
fell to the ground with fear. Then they all laughed, and laughed 
so loud that everything seemed shaking and tumbling down from 
the laughter. And the dancers came up, and they all danced 
round Hugh, and tried to take his hands to make him dance with 

" Do you know who these people are ; and the men and women 
who are dancing round you ? " asked the old man. " Look well, 
have you ever seen them before ? " 

And when Hugh looked he saw a girl that had died the year 
before, then another and another of his friends that he knew had 
died long ago ; and then he saw that all the dancers, men, women, 
and girls, were the dead in their long, white shrouds. And he 
tried to escape from them, but could not, for they coiled round 
him, and danced and laughed and seized his arms, and tried to 
draw him into the dance, and their laugh seemed to pierce through 
his brain and kill him. And he fell down before them there, like 
one faint from sleep, and knew no more till he found himself next 
morning lying within the old stone circle by the fairy rath on the 
hill, Still it was all true that he had been with the fairies ; no 
one could deny it, for his arms were all black with the touch of 
the hands of the dead, the time they had tried to draw him into 
the dance ; but not one bit of all the red gold, which the little imp 
had given him, could he find in his pocket. Not one single golden, 
piece } it was all gone for evermore, 


And Hugh went sadly to his home, for now he knew that the 
spirits had mocked him and punished him, because he troubled 
their revels on November Eve — that one night of all the year 
when the dead can leave their graves and dance in the moonlight 
on the hill, and mortals should stay at home and never dare to 
Jook on them. 


It is especially dangerous to be out late on the last night 
of November, for it is the closing scene of the revels — the last 
night when the dead have leave to dance on the hill with the 
fairies, and after that they must all go back to their graves and 
lie in the chill, cold earth, without music or wine till the next 
November comes round, when they all spring up again in their 
shrouds and rush out into the moonlight with mad laughter. 

One November night, a woman of Shark Island, coming home 
late at the hour of the dead, grew tired and sat down to rest, 
when presently a young man came up and talked to her. 

" Wait a bit/' he said, " and you will see the most beautiful 
dancing you ever looked on there by the side of the hill." 

And she looked at him steadily. He was very pale, and seemed 

" Why are you so sad ? " she asked, " and as pale as if you 
were dead ? " 

" Look well at me," he answered. " Do you not know me ? " 

u Yes, I know you now," she said. " You are young Brien that 
was drowned last year when out fishing. What are you here for ? " 

" Look," he said, " at the side of the hill and you will see why 
I am here." 

And she looked, and saw a great company dancing to sweet 
music; and amongst them were all the dead who had died as 
long 1 as she could remember — men, women, and children, all in 
white, and their faces were pale as the moonlight. 

" Now," said the young man, " run for your life ; for if once 
the fairies bring you into the dance you will never be able to 
leave them any more." 

But while they were talking, the fairies came up and danced 
round her in a circle, joining their hands. And she fell to the 
ground in a faint, and knew no more till she woke up in the 
morning in her own bed at home. And they all saw that her 
face was pale as the dead, and they knew that she had got the 
fairy-stroke. So the herb doctor was sent for, and every measure 
tried to save her, but without avail, for just as the moon rose that 
night, soft, low music was heard round the house, and when they 
looked at the woman she was dead. 


It is a custom amongst the people, when throwing away water 
at night, to cry out in a loud voice, " Take care of the water ; " 
or, literally from the Irish, " Away with yourself from the 
water " — for they say the spirits of the dead last buried are then 
wandering about, and it would be dangerous if the water fell on 

One dark winter's night a woman suddenly threw out a pail of 
boiling water without thinking of the warning words. Instantly 
a cry was heard as of a person in pain, but no one was seen. 
However, the next night a black lamb entered the house, having 
the back all fresh scalded, and it lay down moaning by the hearth 
and died. Then they all knew this was the spirit that had been 
scalded by the woman. And they carried the dead lamb out 
reverently and buried it deep in the earth. Yet every night at 
the same hour it walked again into the house and lay down and 
moaned and died. And after this had happened many times, the 
priest was sent for, and finally, by the strength of his exorcism, 
the spirit of the dead was laid to rest, and the black lamb 
appeared no more. Neither was the body of the dead lamb found 
in the grave when they searched for it, though it had been laid 
by. their own hands deep in the earth and covered with the 

Eefore an accident happens to a boat, or a death by drowning, 
low music is often heard, as if under the water, along with har- 
monious lamentations, and then every one in the boat knows that 
some young man or beautiful young girl is wanted by the fairies, 
and is doomed to die. The best safeguard is to have music and 
singing in the boat, for the fairies are so enamoured of the mortal 
voices and music that they forget to weave the spell till the fatal 
moment has passed, and then all in the boat are safe from harm. 


Many strange spells are effected by the means of a dead man's 
hand — chiefly to produce butter in the churn. The milk is stirred 
round nine times with the dead hand, the operator crying aloud 
all the time, " Gather ! gather ! gather." while a secret form of 
words is used which none but the initiated know. 

Another use is to facilitate robberies. If a candle is placed in 
a dead hand, neither wind nor water can extinguish it, And if 
carried into a house the inmates will sleep the sleep of the dead 



as long as it remains under tlie roof, and no power on earth can 
wake them while the dead hand holds the candle. 

For a mystic charm, one of the strongest known is the hand of 
an unbaptized infant fresh taken from the grave in the name of 
the Evil One. 

A dead hand is esteemed also a certain cure for most diseases, 
and many a time sick people have been brought to a house where 
a corpse lay that the hand of the dead might be laid on them. 

The souls of the dead who may happen to die abroad, greatly 
desire to rest in Ireland. And the relations deem it their duty 
to bring back the body to be laid in Irish earth. But even then 
the dead will not rest peaceably unless laid with their forefathers 
and their own people, and not amongst strangers. 

A young girl happened to die of a fever while away on a visit 
to some friends, and her father thought it safer not to bring her 
home, but to have her buried in the nearest churchyard. How- 
ever, a few nights after his return home, he was awakened by a 
mournful wail at the window, and a voice cried, ft I am alone ; I 
am alone ; I am alone ! " Then the poor father knew well what 
it meant, and he prayed in the name of God that the spirit of his 
dead child might rest in peace until the morning. And when the 
day broke he arose and set off to the strange burial ground, and 
there he drew the coffin from the earth, and had it carried all the 
way back from Cork to Mayo ; and after he had laid the dead in 
the old graveyard beside his people and his kindred, the spirit of 
his child had rest, and the mournful cry was no more heard in the 

The corner of a sheet that has wrapped a corpse is a cure for 
headache if tied round the head. 

The ends of candles used at wakes are of great efficacy in curing 

A piece of linen wrap taken from a corpse will cure the swell- 
ing of a limb if tied round the part affected. 

It is believed that the spirit of the dead last buried has to 
watch in the churchyard until another corpse is laid there ; or has 
to perform menial offices in the spirit world, such as carrying 
wood and water until the next spirit comes from earth. They 
are also sent on messages to earth, chiefly to announce the coming 


death of some relative, and at this they are glad, for then their 
time of peace and rest will come at last. 

If any one stumbles at a grave it is a had omen ; hut if he falls 
and touches the clay, he will assuredly die before the year is out. 

Any one meeting a funeral must turn back and walk at least 
four steps with the mourners. 

If the nearest relative touches the hand of a corpse it will utter 
a wild cry if not quite dead. 

On Twelfth Night the dead walk, and on every tile of the 
house a soul is sitting, waiting for your prayers to take it out of 

There are many strange superstitions in the western islands of 
Connemara. At night the dead can be heard laughing with the 
fairies and spinning the flax. One girl declared that she distinctly 
heard her dead mother's voice singing a mournful Irish air away 
down in the heart of the hill. But after a year and a day the 
voices cease, and the dead are gone for ever. 

It is a custom in the "West, when a corpse is carried to the 

frave, for the bearers to stop half way, while the nearest relatives 
uild up a small monument of loose stones, and no hand would 
ever dare to touch or disturb this monument while the world lasts, 
"When the grave is dug, a cross is made of two spades, and the 
coffin is carried round it three times before being placed in the 
clay. Then the prayers for the dead are said, all the people 
kneeling with uncovered head. 


A potent love-charm used by women is apiece of skin taken from 
the arm of a corpse and tied on the person while sleeping whose 
love is sought. The skin is then removed after some time, and 
carefully put away before the sleeper awakes or has any conscious- 
ness of the transaction. And as long as it remains in the woman's 
possession the love of her lover will be unchanged. Or the strip 
of skin is placed under the head to dream on, in the name of the 
Evil One, when the future husband will appear in the dream. 
A young girl who was servant in the large and handsome house 



of a rich family tried this charm for fun, thinking she would 
dream of one of her fellow-servants, and next morning her mis- 
tress asked the result. 

"Throth, ma'am," she answered, "there never was such a 
foolish trick, for it was of the master himself I was dreaming all 
night, and of no one else." 

Soon after the lady died, and the girl, remembering her dream, 
watched her opportunity to tie a piece of skin taken from a corpse 
recently buried round the arm of her master while he slept. After 
this he became violently in love with the girl, though she was 
exceedingly ugly, and within the year he married her, his love all 
the while remaining fervent and unchanged. 

But exactly one year and a day after her marriage her bedroom 
took fire by accident, and the strip of skin, which she had kept 
carefully hidden in her wardrobe, was burnt, along with all her 
grand wedding-clothes. Immediately the magic charm was 
broken, and the hatred of the gentleman for his low-born wife 
became as strong as the love he- had once felt for her. 

In her rage and grief at finding nothing but coldness and insult, 
she confessed the whole story ; and, in consequence, the horror she 
inspired amongst the people was so great that no one would serve 
her with food or drink, or sit near her, or hold any intercourse with 
her ; and she died miserably and half mad before the second year 
was out — a warning and a terror to all who work spells in' the 
name of the Evil One. 



Thebe is a fort near the Killeries in Oonnemara called Lis-na- 
Keeran. One day the powerful chief that lived there invited the 
great Fionn Ma-Ooul, with his son Oscar and a band of Fenian 
knights, to a great banquet. But when the guests arrived they 
found no chairs prepared for them, only rough benches of wood 
placed round the table. 

So Oscar and his father would take no place, but stood watch- 
ing, for they suspected treachery. The knights, however, fearing 
nothing, sat down to the feast, but were instantly fixed to the 
benches so firmly by magic, that they could neither rise nor 

Then Fionn began to chew his thumb, from which he always 
derived knowledge of the future, and by his magic power he saw 
clearly a great and terrible warrior riding fiercely towards the 
fort, and Fionn knew that unless he could be stopped before 


crossing a certain ford, they must all die, for they had been 
brought to Lis-na-Keeran only to be slain by their treacherous 
host ; and unless the warrior was killed and his blood sprinkled 
on the Fenian knights, they must remain fixed on the wooden 
benches for ever. 

So Oscar of the Lion heart rushed forth to the encounter. And 
he flung his spear at the mighty horseman, and they fought des- 
perately till the setting of the sun. Then at last Oscar triumphed ; 
victory was his j and he cut off the head of his adversary, and 
carried it on his spear all bleeding to the fort, where he let the 
blood drop down upon the Fenian knights that were transfixed by 
magic. On this they at once sprang up free and scatheless, all 
excent one, for on him unhappily no blood had fallen, and so he 
remained fixed to the bench. His companions tried to drag him 
up by main force, but as they did so the skin of his thighs was 
left on the bench, and he was like to die. 

Then they killed a sheep, and wrapped the fleece round him 
warm from the animal to heal him. So he was cured, but ever 
after, strange to relate, seven stone of wool were annually shorn 
from his body as long as he lived. 

The manner in "which Fionn learned the mystery of obtaining 
wisdom from his thumb was in this wise. 

It happened one time when he was quite a youth that he was 
taken prisoner by a one-eyed giant, who at first was going to kill 
him, but then he changed his mind and sent him to the kitchen to 
mind the dinner. Now there was a great and splendid salmon 
broiling on the fire, and the giant said — 

" Watch that salmon till it is done ; but if a single blister rise 
on the skin you shall be killed." 

Then the giant threw himself down to sleep while waiting for 
the dinner. 

So Fionn watched the salmon with all his eyes, but to his 
horror saw a blister rising on the beautiful silver skin of the fish, 
and in his fright and eagerness he pressed his thumb down on it 
to flatten it ; then the pain of the burn being great, he clapped 
the thumb into his mouth and kept it there to suck out the fire. 
When he drew it back, however, he found, to his surprise that he 
had a knowledge of all that was going to happen to him, and a 
clear sense of what he ought to do. And it came into his mind 
that if he put out the giant's eye with an iron rod heated in the 
fire, he could escape from the monster. So he heated the rod, 
and while the giant slept he plunged it into his eye, and before 
the horrid being recovered from the shock, Fionn escaped, and 
was soon back safe amongst his own people, the Fenian knights ; 
and ever after in moments of great peril and doubt, when he put 


his thumb into his mouth and sucked it, the vision of the future 
came on him, and he could foresee clearly whatever danger lay in 
his path, and how to avoid it. But it was only in such extreme 
moments of peril that the mystic power was granted to him. 
And thus he was enabled to save his own life and the lives of his 
chosen Fenian guard when all hope seemed well-nigh gone. 


Thebe is an old ruin called Bruce's Castle on this island, and the 
legend runs that Bruce and his chief warriors lie in an enchanted 
sleep in a cave of the rock on which stands the castle, and that 
one day they will rise up and unite the island to Scotland. 

The entrance to this cave is visible only once in seven years. 
A man who happened to be travelling by at the time discovered 
it, and entering in he found himself all at once in the midst of the 
heavy-handed warriors. He looked down and saw a sabre half 
unsheathed in the earth at his feet, and on his attempting to 
draw it every man of the sleepers lifted up his head and put his 
hand on his sword. The man being much alarmed fled from the 
cave, but he heard voices calling fiercely after him : u Ugh ! ugh I 
Why could we not be left to sleep ? " And they clanged their 
swords on the ground with a terrible noise, and then all was still, 
and the gate of the cave closed with a mighty sound like a clap 
of thunder. 


A company of strangers came one day to Rathlin island and the 
people distrusted them, but pretended to be friendly, and invited 
them to a feast, meaning to put an end to them all when they 
came unarmed to the festival, and the drink flowed freely. So 
the strangers came, but each man as he sat down drew his knife 
and stuck it in the table before him ere he began to eat. When 
the islanders saw their guests so well prepared, they were afraid ; 
and the feast passed off quietly. 

The next morning early, the strangers sailed away before any 
one was aware on the island ; but on the table where each guest 
had sat, a piece of silver was found, covering the hole made by 
the knife. t So the islanders rejoiced, and determined never again 
to plot evil against the wayfaring guests ; but to be kind and hos- 
pitable to all wanderers for the sake of the Holy Mother, who had 


sent them to the island to bring good luck to the people. But they 
never saw the strangers more. 

The islanders have great faith in the power of the Virgin Mary, 
for our Lord Himself told St. Bridget that His mother had a throne 
in heaven near His own ; and whatever she asked of God it was 
granted, especially if it was any grace or favour for the Irish 
people, because He held them in great esteem on account of their 
piety and good works. 


Theee is an island in the Shannon, and if a mermaid is seen sit- 
ting on the rocks in the sunshine, the people know that a crime 
has been committed somewhere near ; for she never appears but 
to announce ill-luck, and she has a spite against mortals, and 
rejoices at their misfortunes. 

One day a young fisherman was drawn by the current towards 
the island, and he came on a long streak of red blood, and had to 
sail his boat through it till he reached the rocks where the mer- 
maid was seated ; and then the boat went round and round as in 
a whirlpool, and sank down at last under the waves. 

Still he did not lose consciousness. He looked round and saw 
that he was in a beautiful country, with tall plants growing all 
over it ; and the mermaid came and sang sweetly to him, and 
offered him wine to drink, but he would not taste it, for it was 
red like blood. Then he looked down, and to his horror he saw 
a soldier lying on the floor with his throat cut ; and all round him 
was a pool of blood, and he remembered no more till he found 
himself again in his boat drifting against a hurricane, and sud- 
denly he was dashed upon a rock, where his friends who were in 
search of him found him, and carried him home, There he heard 
a strange thing : a soldier, a deserter from the Athlone Barracks, 
being pursued had cut his throat and flung himself over the bridge 
into the river ; and this was the very man the young fisher had 
seen lying a corpse in the mermaid's cave. After this he had no 
peace or comfort till he went to the priest, who exorcised him 
and gave him absolution ; and then the wicked siren of the rocks 
troubled him no more, though she still haunts the islands of the 
Shannon and tries to lure victims to their death. 



A great, noble-looking man called one night at a cottage, and 
told the woman that she must come away with him then and there 
on the instant, for his wife wanted a nnrse for her baby. And so 
saying, before she could answer, he swung her up on his great 
black horse on a pillion behind him. And she sat wondering at 
his tall, shadowy form, for she could see the moonlight through 

" Do not fear," he said, {t and no harm will happen to you. Only 
ask no questions whatever happens, and drink no wine that may 
be offered to you." 

On reaching the palace she saw the most beautiful ladies going 
about all covered with jewels, and she was led into a chamber 
hung with silk and gold, and lace as fine as cobwebs ; and there 
on a bed supported by crystal pillars lay the mother, lovely as an 
angel, and her little baby beside her. And when the nurse had 
dressed the baby and handed it to the mother, the lady smiled 
and offered her wine ; " for then," she said, " you will never leave 
us, and I would love to have you always near me." 

But the woman refused, though she was sorely tempted by the 
beautiful bright red wine. 

" Well, then," said the lord and master, " here are three gifts, 
and you may take them away in safety, for no harm will come to 
you by them, A purse, never to be opened, but while you have 
it, you will never want money ; a girdle, and whoso wears it will 
never be slain in battle ; and an herb that has power to cure all 
diseases for seven generations." 

So the woman was put again upon the horse with her three 
gifts, and reached her home safely. Then, from curiosity, the 
first thing she did was to open the purse, and behold, there was 
nothing in it but some wild flowers. On seeing this, she was so 
angry that she flung away the herb, " for they were only making 
a fool of me," she said, i( and I don't believe one word of their 
stories." But the husband took the belt and kept it safe, and it 
went down in the family from father to son ; and the last man 
who wore it was out in all the troubles of '98, and fought in every 
one of the battles, but he never got hurt or wound. However, 
after his death, no one knew what became of the belt j it was 
never seen more. 

A woman was carried of! one night to a fairy palace to attend 
one of the beautiful fairy ladies who lay sick on her golden bed. 
And as she was going in at the gate a man whispered to her, 
" Eat no food, and take no money from the fairies ; but ask what 
you like and it will be granted " So when the fairy lady was 


well, she bade the nurse ask what she pleased. The woman 
answered, "I desire three things for my sons and their race — luck 
in fishing, luck in learning, and luck in gambling," which things 
were granted — and to this day the family are the richest, the 
wisest, and the luckiest in the whole neighbourhood. They win 
at every game, and at every race, but always by fair play and 
without cheating ; and not the priest himself can beat them at 
book learning. And every one Knows that the power comes to 
them from the fairy gift, though good luck comes with it and not 
evil ; and all the work of their hands has ^prospered through every 
generation since the day of the Three Wishes. 


The islanders, like all the Irish, believe that the fairies are the 
fallen angels who were cast down by the Lord God out of heaven 
for their sinful pride. And some fell into the sea, and some on 
the dry land, and some fell deep down into hell, and the devil 
gives to these knowledge and power, and sends them on earth 
where they work much evil. But the fairies of the earth and the 
sea are mostly gentle and beautiful creatures, who will do no 
harm if they are let alone, and allowed to dance on the fairy raths 
in the moonlight to their own sweet music, undisturbed by the 
presence of mortals. As a rule, the pBople look on fire as the 
great preservative against witchcraft, for the devil has no power 
except in the dark. So they put a live coal under the churn, and 
they wave a lighted wisp of straw above the cow's head if the 
beast seems sickly. But as to the pigs, they take no trouble, for 
they say the devil has no longer any power over them now. 
When they light a candle they cross themselves, because the evil 
spirits are then clearing out of the house in fear of the light- 
Fire and Holy Water they hold to be sacred, and are powerful ; 
and the best safeguard against all things evil, and the surest test 
in case of suspected witchcraft. 


Onb evening, a man was coming home late, and he passed a house 
where two women stood by a window, talking. 

(i I have left the dead child in the cradle as you bid me/' said 
one woman, " and behold here is the other child, take it and let 


me go ; " and she laid down an infant on a sheet by the window, 
who seemed in a secret sleep, and it was draped all in white. 

" Wait," said the other, " till you have had some food, and then 
take it to the fairy queen, as I promised, in place of the dead child 
that we have laid in the cradle by the nurse. Wait also till the 
moon rises, and then you shall have the payment which I pro- 

They then both turned from the window. Now the man saw 
that there was some devil's magic in it all. And when the women 
turned away he crept up close to the open window and put his 
hand in and seized the sleeping child and drew it out quietly 
without ever a sound. Then he made off as fast as he could to 
his own home, before the women could know anything about it, 
and handed the child to his mother's care. Now the mother was 
angry at first, but when he told her the story, she believed him, 
and put the baby to sleep — a lovely, beautiful boy with a face 
like an angel. 

Next morning there was a great commotion in the village, for 
the news spread that the first-born son of the great lord of the 
place, a lovely, healthy child, died suddenly in the night, without 
ever having had a sign of sickness. When they looked at him in 
the morning, there he laid dead in his cradle, and he was shrunk 
and wizened like a little old man, and no beauty was seen on him 
any more. So great lamentation was heard on all sides, and the 
whole country gathered to the wake. Amongst them came the 
young man who had carried off the child, and when he looked on 
the little wizened thing in the cradle he laughed. Now the 
parents were angry at his laughter, and wanted to turn him out. 

But he said, " Wait, put down a good fire," and they did so. 

Then he went over to the cradle and said to the hideous little 
creature, in a loud voice before all the people— 

" If you don't rise up this minute and leave the place, I will 
burn you on the fire ; for I know right well who you are, and 
where you came from." 

At once the child sat up and began to grin at him ; and made 
a rush to the door to get away ; but the man caught hold of it 
and threw it on the fire. And the moment it felt the heat it 
turned into a black kitten, and flew up the chimney and was seen 
no more. 

Then the man sent word to his mother to bring the other child, 
who was found to be the true heir, the lord's own son. So there 
was great rejoicing, and the child grew up to be a great lord him- 
self, and when his time came, he ruled well over the estate ; and 
his descendants are living to this day, for all things prospered 
with him after he was saved from the fairies. 



When the fairies steal away a beautiful mortal child they leave 
an ugly, wizened little creature in its place. And these fairy 
changelings grow up malicious and wicked, and have voracious 
appetites. The unhappy parents often try the test of fire for the 
child, in this wise — placing it in the centre of the cabin, they light 
a fire round it, and fully expect to see it changed into a sod of turf, 
But if the child survives the ordeal it is accepted as one of the 
family, though very grudgingly ; and it is generally hated by all 
the neighbours for its impish ways. But the children of the Sidhe 
and a mortal mother are always clever and beautiful, and 
specially excel in music and dancing. They are, however, 
passionate and wilful, and have strange, moody fits, when they 
desire solitude above all things, and seem to hold converse with 
unseen spiritual beings. 

Fine young peasant women are often carried off by the fairies 
to nurse their little fairy progeny. But the woman is allowed to 
come back to her own infant after sunset. However, on entering 
the house, the husband must at once throw holy water over her 
in the name of God, when she will be restored to her own shape, 
For sometimes she comes with a hissing noise like a serpent; then 
she appears black, and shrouded like one from the dead; and, 
lastly, in her own shape, when she takes her old place by the fire 
and nurses her baby ; and the husband must ask no questions, but 
give her food in silence. If she falls asleep the third night, all 
will be well, for the husband at once ties a red thread across the 
door to prevent the fairies coming in to carry her off, and if the 
third night passes over safely the fairies have lost their power 
over her for evermore. 



The islanders believe firmly in the existence of fairies who live in 
the caves by the sea — little men about the height of a sod of turf, 
who come out of the fissures of the rocks and are bright and 
merry, wearing green jackets and red caps, and ready enough to 
help any one they like, though often very malicious if offended or 

There was an old man on the island called Shaun-Mor, who said 
that he had often travelled at night with the little men and 
carried their sacks for them ; and in return they gave him strange 


fairy gifts and taught him the secret of power, so that he could 
always triumph over his enemies ; and even as to the fairies, he 
was as wise as any of them, and could fight half a dozen of them 
together if he were so minded, and pitch them into the sea or 
strangle them with seaweed. So the fairies were angered at his 
pride and presumption, and determined to do him a malicious turn, 
just to amuse themselves when they were up for fun. So one 
night when he was returning home, he suddenly saw a great river 
between him and his house. 

" How shall I get across now ? " he cried aloud ; and immedi- 
ately an eagle came up to him. 

" Don't cry, Shaun-Mor," said the eagle, " but get on my back 
and I'll carry you safely." 

So Shaun-Mor mounted, and they flew right up ever so high, 
till at last the eagle tumbled him off by the side of a great 
mountain in a place he had never seen before. 

" This is a bad trick you have played me," said Shaun ; " tell me 
where I am now ? " 

" You are in the moon," said the eagle, " and get down the best 
way you can, for now I must be off ; so good-bye. Mind you 
don't fall off the edge. Good-bye," and with that the eagle 

Just then a cleft in the rock opened, and out came a man as pale 
as the dead with a reaping-hook in his hand. 

u What brings you here ? " said he. " Only the dead come 
here," and he looked fixedly at Shaun-Mor so that he trembled 
like one already dying. 

u your worship," he said, " 1 live far from here. Tell me how 
I am to get down, and help me I beseech you." 

" Ay, that I will," said the pale-faced man. "Here is the help 
I give you," and with that he gave him a blow with the reaping- 
hook which tumbled Shaun right over the edge of the moon ; and 
he fell and fell ever so far till luckily he came in the midst of a 
flock of geese, and the old gander that was leading stopped and 
eyed him. 

" What are you doing here, Shaun-Mor ? " said he, " for I know 
you well. I've often seen you down in Shark. What will your 
wife say when she hears of your being out so late at night, 
wandering about in this way. It is very disreputable, and no well 
brought up gander would do the like, much less a man ; I am 
ashamed of you, Shaun-Mor." 

" O your honour," said the poor man, " it is an evil turn of the 
-evil witches, for they have done all this ; but let me just get up on 
your back, and if your honour brings me safe to my own house I 
shall be for ever grateful to every goose and gander in the world 
as long as I live." 

" Well then, get up on my back," said the bird, fluttering its 


wings with a great clatter over Shaun ; but he couldn't manage 
at all to get on its back, so he caught hold of one leg, and he and 
the gander went down and down till they came to the sea. 

" Now let go," said the gander, " and find your way home thfr 
best way you can, for I have lost a great deal of time with you 
already, and must be away ; " and he shook off Shaun-Mor, who 
dropped plump down into the sea, and when he was almost dead 
a great whale came sailing by, and flapped him all over with its 
fins. He knew no more till he opened his eyes lying on the grass 
in his own field by a great stone, and his wife was standing over 
him drenching him with a great pail of water, and flapping his face 
with her apron. 

And then he told his wife the whole story, which he said was 
true as gospel, but I don't think she believed a word of it, though 
she was afraid to let on the like to Shaun-Mor, who affirms to this 
day that it was all the work of the fairies, though wicked people 
might laugh and jeer and say he was drunk» 



It is believed by many people that the cave fairies are the 
remnant of the ancient Tuatha-de-Dananns who once ruled 
Ireland, but were conquered by the Milesians. 

These Tuatha were great necromancers, skilled in all magic, and 
excellent in all the arts as builders, poets, and musicians. At first 
the Milesians were going to destroy them utterly, but gradually 
were so fascinated and captivated by the gifts and power of the 
Tuatha that they allowed them to remain and to build forts, 
where they held high festival with music and singing and the 
chant of the bards. And the breed of horses they reared could 
not be surpassed in the world — fleet as the wind, with the arched 
neck and the broad chest and the quivering nostril, and the large 
eye that showed they were made of fire and flame, and not of dull, 
heavy earth. And the Tuatha made stables for them in the great 
caves of the hills, and they were shod with silver and had golden 
bridles, and never a slave was allowed to ride them. A splendid 
sight was the cavalcade of the Tuatha-de-Danann knights. 
Seven-score steeds, each with a jewel on his forehead like a star, 
and seven-score horsemen, all the sons of kings, in their green 
mantles fringed with gold, and golden helmets on their head, and 
golden greaves on their limbs, and each knight having in his hand 
a golden spear. 


And so they lived for a hundred years and more, for by their 
enchantments they could resist the power of death. 


Now it happened that the king of Munster one day saw a 
beautiful girl bathing, and he loved her and made her his queen. 
And in all the land was no woman so lovely to look upon as the 
fair Edain, and the fame of her beauty came to the ears of the 
great and powerful chief and king of the Tuatha-de-Danann, Midar 
by name. So he disguised himself and went to the court of the 
king of Munster, as a wandering bard, that he might look on the 
beauty of Edain. And he challenged the king to a game of chess. 

" Who is this man that I should play chess with him ? " said the 

" Try me," said the stranger ; " you will find me a worthy foe." 

Then the king said — "But the chess-board is in the queen's 
apartment, and I cannot disturb her." 

However, when the queen heard that a stranger had challenged 
the king to chess, she sent her page in with the chess-board, and 
then came herself to greet the stranger. And Midar was so 
dazzled with her beauty, that he could not speak, he could only 
gaze on her. And the queen also seemed troubled, and after a 
time she left them alone. 

" Now, what shall we play for ? " asked the king. 

" Let the conqueror name the reward," answered the stranger, 
" and whatever he desires let it be granted to him." 

" Agreed," replied the monarch. 

Then they played the game and the stranger won. 

" What is your demand now ? " cried the king. " I have given 
my word that whatever you name shall be yours." 

" I demand the Lady Edain, the queen, as my reward," replied 
the stranger. " But J shall not ask you to give her up to me till 
this day year." And the stranger departed. 

Now the king was utterly perplexed and confounded, but he 
took good note of the time, and on that night just a twelvemonth 
after, he made a great feast at Tara for all the princes, and he 
placed three lines of his chosen warriors all round the palace, and 
forbade any stranger to enter on pain of death. So all being 
secure, as he thought, he took his place at the feast with the 
beautiful Edain beside him, all glittering with jewels and a golden 
crown on her head, and the revelry went on till midnight. Just 
then, to his horror, the king looked up, and there stood the stranger 
in the middle of the hall, but no one seemed to perceive him save 
only the king. He fixed his eyes on the queen, and coming towards 


her, he struck the golden harp he had in his hand and sang in & 
low sweet voice— 

" Edam, wilt thou come with me 
To a wonderful palace that is mine ? 
White are the teeth there, and black the brows, 
And crimson as the mead are the lips of the lovers. 

" woman, if thou comest to my proud people, 

*Tis a golden crown shall circle thy head, 

Thou shalt dwell by the sweet streams of my land, 

And drink of the mead and wine in the arms of thy lover. n 

Then he gently put his arm round the queen's waist, and drew 
her ng from her royal throne, and went forth with her through 
the midst of all the guests, none hindering, and the king himself 
was like one in a dream, and could neither speak nor move. But 
when he recovered himself, then he knew that the stranger was 
one of the fairy chiefs of the Tuatha-de-Danann who had carried 
off the beautiful Edain to his fairy mansion. So he sent round 
messengers to all the kings of Erin that they should destroy all 
the forts of the hated Tuatha race, and slay and kill and let none 
live till the queen, his young bride, was brought back to him. Still 
she came not. Then the king out of revenge ordered his men to 
block up all the stables where the royal horses of the Dananns 
were kept, that so they might die of hunger ; but the horses were 
of noble blood, and no bars or bolts could hold them, and they 
broke through the bars and rushed out like the whirlwind, and 
spread all over the country. And the kings, when they saw the 
beauty of the horses, forgot all about the search for Queen Edain, 
and only strove how they could seize and hold as their own some 
of the fiery steeds with the silver hoofs and golden bridles. Then 
the king raged in his wrath, and sent for the chief of the Druids, 
and told him he should be put to death unless he discovered the 

flace where the queen lay hid. So the Druid went over all 
reland, and searched, and made spells with oghams, and at last, 
having carved four oghams on four wands of a hazel-tree, it was 
revealed to him that deep down in a hill in the very centre of 
Ireland, Queen Edain was hidden away in the enchanted palace 
of Midar the fairy chief. 

Then the king gathered a great army, and they circled the hill, 
and dug down and down till they came to the very centre j and 
just as they reached the gate of the fairy palace, Midar by his 
enchantments sent forth fifty beautiful women from the hillside, 
to distract the attention of the warriors, all so like the queen in 
form and features and dress, that the king himself could not make 
out truly, if his own wife were amongst them or not. But Edain, 
when she saw her husband so near her, was touched by love of 


him in her heart, and the power of the enchantment fell from her 
soul, and she came to him, and he lifted her up on his horse and 
kissed her tenderly, and brought her back safely to his royal palace 
of Tara, where they lived happily ever after. 

But soon after the power of the Tuatha-de-Danann was broken 
for ever, and the remnant that was left took refuge in the caves 
where they exist to this day, and practise their magic, and work 
spells, and are safe from death until the judgment day. 


Of the great breed of splendid horses, some remained for several 
centuries, and were at once known by their noble shape and 
qualities. The last of them belonged to a great lord in Oonnaught, 
and when he died, all his effects being sold by auction, the royal 
steed came to the hammer, and was bought up by an emissary of 
the English Government, who wanted to get possession of a speci- 
men of the magnificent ancient Irish breed, in order to have it 
transported to England. 

But when the groom attempted to mount the high-spirited 
animal, it reared, and threw the base-born churl violently to the 
ground, killing him on the spot. 

Then, fleet as the wind, the horse galloped away, and finally 
plunged into the lake and was seen no more. So ended the great 
race of the mighty Tuatha-de-Danann horses in Ireland, the like 
of which has never been seen since in all the world for majesty 
and beauty. 

Sometimes the cave fairies make a straight path in the sea from 
one island to another, all paved with coral, under the water ; but 
no one can tread it except the fairy race. Fishermen coming home 
late at night, on looking down, have frequently seen them passing 
and re-passing — a black band of little men with black dogs, who 
are very fierce if any one tries to touch them. 

There was an old man named Con, who lived on an island all 
alone, except for a black dog who kept him company. Now all 
the people knew right well that he was a fairy king, and could 
walk the water at night like the other fairies. So they feared him 
greatly, and brought him presents of cakes and fowls, for they 
were afraid of him and of his evil demon, the dog. For often, 
men coming home late have heard the steps of this dog and his 
breathing quite close to them, though they could not see him ; and 
one man nearly died of fright, and was only saved by the priest 
who came and prayed over him. 


But the cave fairies can assume many forms. 

One summer's evening, a young girl, the daughter of the man 
who owned the farm, was milking the cows in the yard, when 
three beautiful ladies, all in white, suddenly appeared, and asked 
her for a drink of milk. Now the girl knew well that milk should 
not be given away without using some precaution against fairy 
wiles, so she hesitated, fearing to bring ill-luck on the cows. 

"Is that the way you treat us? " said one of the ladies, and she 
slapped the girl on the face. 

" But you'll remember us," said the second lady, and she took 
hold of the girl's thumb and twisted it out of joint. 

" And your lover will be false to you," said the third, and with 
that she turned the girl's mantle crooked, the back to the front. 

Then the first lady took a vessel and milked the cow, and they 
all drank of the milk as much as they wanted ; after which they 
turned to the girl and bade her beware of again offending the 
spirits of the cave, for they were very powerful, and would not 
let her off so easily another time. 

The poor girl fainted from fright, and was found quite senseless 
when they came to look for her ; but the white ladies had dis- 
appeared. Though the story must have been true, just as she told 
it when she came to her senses, for not a drop of milk was left in 
the pail, nor could a drop more be got from the cows all that 



It is said by the wise women and fairy doctors that the roots of 
the elder tree, and the roots of an apple tree that bears red apples, 
if boiled together and drunk fasting, will expel any^ evil living 
thing or evil spirit that may have taken up its abode in the body 
of a man. 

But an evil charm to produce a living thing in the body can also 
be made, by pronouncing a certain magic and wicked spell oyer the 
food or drink taken by any person that an enemy wishes to injure. 

One should therefore be very cautious in accepting anything to 
eat from a person of known malicious tongue and spiteful heart, 
or who has an ill will against you, for poison lies in their glance 
and in the touch of their hands ; and an evil spell is in their very 
presence, and on all they do, say, or touch. 

Cathal, king of Munster, was the tallest and handsomest of all 
the kings of Erin, and he fell deeply in love with the beautiful 
sister of Fergus, king of Ulster $ and the lovers were happy in 



their love and resolved on marriage. But Fergus, King of the 
North, had a mortal hatred to Cathal, King of the South, and 
wished, in secret, to prevent the marriage. So he set a watch over 
his sister, and by this means found out that she was sending a 
basket of the choicest apples to her lover, by the hands of a trusty- 
messenger. On this Fergus managed to get hold of the basket of 
fruit from the messenger; and he changed them secretly for 
another lot of apples, over which he worked an evil spell. Fur- 
nished with these the messenger set out for Cashel, and presented 
them to Cathal the king, who, delighted at this proof of love 
from his princess, began at once to eat the apples. But the mor8 
he ate, the more he longed for them, for a wicked spell was on 
every apple. When he had eaten them all up, he sent round the 
country for more, and ate, and ate, until there was not an apple 
left in Oashel, nor in all the country round. 

Then he bade his chieftains go forth and bring in food to appease 
his appetite ; and he ate up all the cattle and the grain and the 
fruit, and still cried for more ; and had the houses searched for 
food to bring to him. So the people were in despair, for they had 
no more food, and starvation was over the land. 

Now a great and wise man, the chief poet of his tribe, happened 
to be travelling through Munster at that time, and hearing of the 
king's state, he greatly desired to see him, for he knew there was 
devil's work in the evil spell. So they brought him to the king, 
and many strong invocations he uttered over him, and many 
powerful incantations, for poets have a knowledge of mysteries 
above all other men ; until finally, after three days had passed, he 
announced to the lords and chiefs that on that night, when the 
moon rose, the spell would be broken, and the king restored to his 
wonted health. So all the chiefs gathered round in the courtyard 
to watch ; but no one was allowed to enter the room where the 
king lay, save only the poet. And he was to give the signal when 
the hour had come and the spell was broken. 

So as they watched, and just as the moon rose, a great cry was 
heard from the king's room, and the poet, flinging open the door, 
bade the chiefs enter ; and there on the floor lay a huge dead wolf, 
who for a whole year had taken up his abode in the king's body ; 
but was now happily cast forth by the strong incantations of the 

After this the king fell into a deep sleep, and when he arose he 
was quite well, and strong again as ever, in all the pride of his 
youth and beauty. At this the people rejoiced much, for he was 
greatly loved, and the poet who had restored him was honoured 
above all men in the land ; for the king himself took off the 
golden torque from his own neck, and placed it on that of the 
poet, and he set him at his right hand at the feast. 

Now a strange thing happened just at this time ; for Fergus, 


King of the North, fell ill, and wasted away to a shadow, and of 
all the beautiful meats and wines they set before him he could 
taste nothing. So he died before a year had passed by; and 
then Cathal the king wedded his beloved princess, and they lived 
happily through many years. 


The imprecations of the poets had often also a mysterious and 
fatal effect. 

King Breas, the pagan monarch, was a fierce, cruel, and nig- 
gardly man, who was therefore very unpopular with the people, 
who hate the cold heart and the grudging hand. 

Amongst others who suffered by the king's inhospitality, was 
the renowned Carbury the poet, scm of Eodain, the great poetess 
of the Tuatha-de-Danann race ; she who chanted the song of 
victory when her people conquered the Firbolgs, on the plains of 
Moytura ; and the stone that she stood on, during the battle, in 
sight of all the warriors, is still existing, and is pointed out as the 
stone of Eodain, the poetess, with great reverence, even to this 

It was her son, Oarbury the poet, who was held in such high 
honour by the nation, that King Breas invited him to his court, in 
order that he might pronounce a powerful malediction over the 
enemy with whom he was then at war. 

Oarbury came on the royal summons, but in place of being 
treated with the distinction due to his high rank, he was lodged 
and fed so meanly that the soul of the poet raged with wrath ; 
for the king gave him for lodgement only a small stone cell with- 
out fire or a bed ; and for food he had only three cakes of meal 
without any flesh meat or sauce, and no wine was given him, such 
wine as is fit to light up the poet's soul before the divine mystic 
spirit of song can awake in its power within him. So very early 
the next morning, the poet rose up and departed, with much rage 
in his heart. But as he passed the king's house he stopped, and 
in place of a blessing, pronounced a terrible malediction over 
Breas and his race, which can still be found in the ancient books of 
Ireland, commencing thus — 

" Without fire, without bed, on the surface of the floor ! 
Without meat, without fowl, on the surface of the dish. 
Three little dishes and no flesh thereon, 
A cell without bed, a dish without meat, a cup without wine, 
Are these fit offerings from a king to a poet ? 

May the king and his race be three times accursed for ever and for 
ever ! " 



Immediately three large blisters rose on the king's forehead, 
and remained there as a sign and mark of the poet's vengeance. 

And from that day forth to his death, which happened not long 
after, the reign of Breas was a time of sore trouble and disaster, 
for he was three times defeated by his enemies, and from care and 
sorrow a grievous disease fell on him ; for though hungry he could 
not swallow any food ; and though all the meat and wine of the 
best was set before him, yet his throat seemed closed, and though 
raging with hunger yet not a morsel could pass his lips ; and so 
he died miserably, starved in the midst of plenty, and accursed in 
all things by the power and malediction of the angry poet. 



When a girl wishes to gain the love of a man, and to make him 
marry her, the dreadful spell is used called Drimial Agu$ ThoriaL 
At dead of night, she and an accomplice go to a churchyard, 
exhume a newly-buried corpse, and take a strip of the skin from 
the head to the heeL This is wound round the girl as a belt 
with a solemn invocation to the devil for his help. 

After she has worn it for a day and a night she watches her 
opportunity and ties it round the sleeping man whose love she 
desires,* during which process the name of God must not be 

When he awakes the man is bound by the spell ; and is forced 
to marry the cruel and evil harpy. It is said the children of such 
marriages bear a black mark round the wrist, and are known and 
shunned by the people, who call them " sons of the devil." 


Some persons, even at the present day amongst the peasants, 
have strange gifts and a knowledge of the hidden mysteries, but 
they can only impart this knowledge when they know that death 
is on them, and then it must be to a female, to an unmarried man, 
or to a childless woman, for these are the most susceptible to the 
mysterious power by which miracles can be worked. 
A man now living at Innis-Sark has this strange and mystic 


gift, He can heal diseases by a word, even at a distance, and hia 
glance sees into the very heart, and reads the secret thoughts of 
men. He never touched beer, spirits, or meat, in all his life, but 
has lived entirely on bread, fruit, and vegetables. A man who 
knew him thus describes him — " Winter and summer his dress is 
the same, merely a flannel shirt and coat. He will payj his share 
at a feast, but neither eats nor drinks of the food and drink set be- 
fore him. He speaks no English, and never could be made to 
learn the English tongue, though he says it might be used with 
great effect to curse one's enemy. He holds a burial-ground 
sacred, and would not carry away so much as a leaf of ivy from a 
grave. And he maintains that the people are right in keeping to 
their ancient usages, such as never to dig a grave on a Monday ; 
and to carry the coffin three times round the grave, following the 
course of the sun, for then the dead rest in peace. Like the 
people, also, he holds suicides as accursed ; for they believe that 
all the dead who have been recently buried turn over on their 
faces if a suicide is laid amongst them. 

"Though well off he never, even in his youth, thought of 
taking a wife, nor was he ever known to love a woman. He 
stands quite apart from life, and by this means holds his power 
over the mysteries. No money will tempt him to impart this 
knowledge to another, for if he did he would be struck dead — so 
he believes. He would not touch a hazel stick, but carries an ash 
wand, which he holds in his hand when he prays, laid across his 
knees, and the whole of his life is devoted to works of grace and 

Though now an old man he has never had a day's sickness. No 
one has ever seen him in a rage, nor heard an angry word from 
his lips but once ; and then being under great irritation, he recited 
the Lord's Prayer backwards, as an imprecation on his enemy. 
Before his death he will reveal the mystery of his power, but not 
till the hand of death is on him for certain, 


Therb were four great festivals held in Ireland from the most 
ancient pagan times, and these four sacred seasons were February, 
May, Midsummer, and November. May was the most memorable 
and auspicious of all; then the Druids lit the BaaUTinne, the 
holy, goodly fire of Baal, the Sun-god, and they drove the cattle 
on a path made between two fires, and singed them with the 
flame of a lighted torch, and sometimes they cut them to spill 


blood, and then burnt the blood as a sacred, offering to the Sun- 

The great feast of Bel, or the Sun, took place on May Eve ; 
and that of Samhain, or the Moon, on November Eve; when 
libations were poured out to appease the evil spirits, and also the 
spirits of the dead, who come out of their graves on that night to 
visit their ancient homes. 

The Phoenicians, it is known, adored the Supreme Being under 
the name of Bel-Samen, and it is remarkable that the peasants in 
Ireland, wishing you good luck, say in Irish, " The blessing of 
Bel, and the blessing of Samhain, be with you," that is, of the sun 
and of the moon. 

These were the great festivals of the Druids, when all domestic 
fires were extinguished, in order to be re-lit by the sacred fire 
taken from the temples, for it was deemed sacrilege to have any 
fires kindled except from the holy altar flame. 

St. Patrick, however, determined to break down the power of 
the Druids ; and, therefore, in defiance of their laws, he had a 
great fire lit on May Eve, when he celebrated the paschal 
mysteries ; and henceforth Easter, or the Feast of the Insurrec- 
tion, took the place of the Baal festival. 

The Baal fires were originally used for human sacrifices and 
burnt-offerings of the first-fruits of the cattle ; but after 
Christianity was established the children and cattle were only 
passed between two fires for purification from sin, and as a safe- 
guard against the power of the devil. 

The Persians also extinguished the domestic fires on the Baal 
festival, the 21st of April, and were obliged to re-light them from 
the temple fires, for which the priests were paid a fee in silver 
money. A fire kindled by rubbing two pieces of wood together 
was also considered lucky by the Persians ; then water was boiled 
over the flame, and afterwards sprinkled on the people and on the 
cattle. The ancient Irish ritual resembles the Persian in every 
particular, and the Druids, no doubt, held the traditional worship 
exactly as brought from the East, the land of the sun and of tree 
worship and well worship. 

May Day, called in Irish Ld,-Beltaine, the day of the Baal fires, 
was the festival of greatest rejoicing held in Ireland. But the 
fairies have great power at that season, and children and cattle, 
and the milk and butter, must be well guarded from their 
influence. A spent coal must be put under the churn, and another 
under the cradle ; and primroses must be scattered before the 
door, for the fairies cannot pass the flowers. Children that die in 
April are supposed to be carried off by the fairies, who are then 
always on the watch to abduct whatever is young and beautiful 
for their fairy homes. 

Sometimes on the 1st of May, a sacred heifer, snow white. 


appeared amongst the cattle ; and this was considered to bring the 
highest good luck to the farmer. An old Irish song that alludes 
to the heifer, may be translated thus — 

'* There is a cow on the mountain* 
A fair white cow ; 
She goes East and she goes West, 
And my senses have gone for love of her ; 
She goes with the sun and he forgets to burn, 
And the moon turns her face with love to her, 
My fair white cow of the mountain.'* 

The fairies are in the best of humours upon May Eve, and the 
music of the fairy pipes may be heard all through the night, 
while the fairy folk are dancing upon the rath. It is then they 
carry off the young people to join their revels ; and if a girl has 
once danced to the fairy music, she will move ever after with 
such fascinating grace, that it has passed into a proverb to say of 
a good dancer, " She has danced to fairy music on the hill." 

At the great long dance held in old times on May Day, all the 
people held hands and danced round a great May-bush erected on 
a mound. The circle sometimes extended for a mile, the girls 
wearing garlands, and the young men carrying wands of green 
boughs, while the elder people sat round on the grass as spectators, 
and applauded the ceremony. The tallest and strongest young 
men in the county stood in the centre and directed the movements, 
while the pipers and harpers, wearing green and gold sashes, 
played the most spirited dance tunes. 

The oldest worship of the world was of the sun and moon, of 
trees, wells, and the serpent that gave wisdom. Trees were the 
symbol of knowledge, and the dance round the May-bush is part 
of the ancient ophite ritual. The Baila also, or waltz, is associated 
with Baal worship, where the two circling motions are combined ; 
the revolution of the planet on its own axis, and also round the 

In Italy, this ancient festival, called Calendi Maggio, is cele- 
brated in the rural districts much in the Irish way. Dante fell in 
love at the great May Day festival, held in the Portinari Palace. 
The Sclavonic nations likewise light sacred fires, and dance 
round a tree hung with garlands on May Day. This reverence 
for the tree is one of the oldest superstitions of humanity and the 
most universal, and the fires are a relic of the old pagan worship 
paid to the Grynian Apollo — fire above all things being held 
sacred by the Irish as a safeguard from evil spirits. It is a saying 
amongst them, "Fire and salt are the two most sacred things 
given to man, and if you give them away on May Day, you give 
away your luck for the year." Therefore no one will allow milk, 
or fire, or salt, to be carried away from the house on that day ; 


and if people came in and asked for a lighted sod, they would he 
driven away with curses, for their purpose was evil. 

The witches, however, make great efforts to steal the milk on 
May morning, and if they succeed, the luck passes from the 
family, and the milk and butter for the whole year will belong to 
the fairies. The best preventative is to scatter primroses on the 
threshold ; and the old women tie bunches of primroses to the 
cows' tails, for the evil spirits cannot touch anything guarded by 
these flowers, if they are plucked before sunrise, not else. A piece 
of iron, also, made red hot, is placed upon the hearth ; any old 
iron will do, the older the better, and branches of whitethorn and 
mountain ash are wreathed round the doorway for luck. The 
mountain ash has very great and mysterious qualities. If a 
branch of it be woven into the roof, that house is safe from fire for 
a year at least, and if a branch of it is mixed with the timber of a 
boat, no storm will upset it, and no man in it will be drowned for 
a twelvemonth certain. To save milk from witchcraft, the people 
on May morning cut and peel some branches of the mountain ash, 
and bind the twigs round the milk pails and the churn. No witch 
or fairy will then be able to steal the milk or butter. But all this 
must be done befor$ sunrise. However, should butter be missed, 
follow the cow to the field, and gather the clay her hoof has 
touched ; then, on returning home, place it under the churn with 
a live coal and a handful of salt, and your butter is safe from man 
or woman, fairy or fiend, for that year. There are other methods 
also to preserve a good supply of butter in the churn ; a horse-shoe 
tied on it ; a rusty nail from a coffin driven into the side : a cross 
made of the leaves of veronica placed at the bottom of the milk 
pail ; but the mountain ash is the best of all safeguards against 
witchcraft and devil's magic. "Without some of these precautions 
the fairies will certainly overlook the churn, and the milk and 
butter, in consequence, will fail all through the year, and the 
farmer suffer great loss. Herbs gathered on May Eve have a 
mystical and strong virtue for curing disease ; and powerful 
potions are made then by the skilful herb women and fairy doc- 
tors, which no sickness can resist, chiefly of the yarrow, called in 
Irish " the herb of seven needs " or cures, from its many and great 
virtues. Divination is also practised to a great extent by means 
of the yarrow. The girls dance round it singing — 

" Yarrow, yarrow, yarrow, 
I bid thee good morrow, 
And tell me before to-morrow 
Who my true love shall be."j 

The herb is then placed under the head at night, and in dreams 
the true lover will appear. Another mode of divination for the 
future fate in life is by snails. The young girls go out early be- 


fore sunrise to trace the path of the snails in the clay, for always 
a letter is marked, and this is the initial of the true lover's name. 
A black snail is very unlucky to meet first in the morning, for his 
trail would read death ; but a white snail brings good fortune. A 
white lamb on the right hand is also good ; but the cuckoo is 
ominous of evil. Of old the year began with the 1st of May, and 
an ancient Irish rhyme says — 

11 A white lamb on my right side, 
So will good come to me ; 
But not the little false cuckoo 
On the first day of the year." 

Prophecies were also made from the way the wind blew on May 
mornings. In '98 an old man, who was drawing near to his end 
and like to die, inquired from those around him — 

" Where did you leave the wind last night ? " (May Eve.) 

They told him it came from the north. 

" Then," he said, " the country is lost to the Clan Gael ; our 
enemies will triumph. Had it been from the south, we should 
have had the victory ; but now the Sassenach will trample us to 
dust." And he fell back and died. 

Ashes are often sprinkled on the threshold on May Eve ; and if 
the print of a foot is found in the morning, turned inward, it be- 
tokens marriage ; but if turned outward, death. On May Eve the 
fairy music is heard on all the hills, and many beautiful tunes 
have been caught up in this way by the people and the native 

About a hundred years ago a celebrated tune, called Mdraleana, 
was learnt by a piper as he traversed the hills one evening ; and 
he played it perfectly, note by note, as he heard it from the fairy 
pipes ; on which a voice spoke to him and said that he would be 
allowed to play the tune three times in his life before all the 
people, but never a fourth, or a doom would fall on him. How- 
ever, one day he had a great contest for supremacy with another 
piper, and at last, to make sure of victory, he played the wonder- 
ful fairy melody ; when all the people applauded and declared he 
had won the prize by reason of its beauty, and that no music 
could equal his. So they crowned him with the garland ; but at 
that moment he turned deadly pale, the pipes dropped from his 
hand, and he fell lifeless to the ground. For nothing escapes the 
fairies ; they know all things, and their vengeance is swift and 

It is very dangerous to sleep out in the open air in the month 
of May, for the fairies are very powerful then, and on the watch 
to carry off the handsome girls for fairy brides, and the young 
mothers as nurses for the fairy babies ; while the young men are 
selected as husbands for the beautiful fairy princesses. 


A young man died suddenly on May Eve while lie was lying asleep 
under a hay-rick, and the parents and friends knew immediately 
that he had been carried off to the fairy palace in the great moat 
of Granard, So a renowned fairy man was sent for, who promised 
to have him back in nine days. Meanwhile he desired that food 
and drink of the best should be left daily for the young man at a 
certain place on the moat. This was done, and the food always 
disappeared, by which they knew the young man was living, and 
came out of the moat nightly for the provisions left for him by 
his people. 

Now on the ninth day a great crowd assembled to see the young 
man brought back from Fairyland. And in the midst stood the 
fairy doctor performing his incantations by means of fire and a 
powder which he threw into the flames that caused a dense grey 
smoke to arise. Then, taking off his hat, and holding a key in 
his hand, he called out three times in a loud voice, " Come forth, 
come forfch, come forth ! " On which a shrouded figure slowly 
rose up in the midst of the smoke, and a voice was heard answer- 
ing, " Leave me in peace ; I am happy with my fairy bride, and 
my parents need not weep for me, for I shall bring them good 
luck, and guard them from evil evermore." 

Then the figure vanished and the smoke cleared, and the 
parents were content, for they believed the vision, and having 
loaded the fairy-man with presents, they sent him away home. 


The marsh marigold is considered of great use in divination, and 
is called " the shrub of Beltaine." Garlands are made of it for 
the cattle and the door-posts to keep off the fairy power. Milk 
also is poured on the threshold, though none would be given 
away; nor fire, nor salt — these three things being sacred. There 
are many superstitions concerning May-time. It is not safe 
to go on the water the first Monday in May. Hares found 
on May morning are supposed to be witches, and should be 

If the fire goes out on May morning it is considered very un- 
lucky, and it cannot be re-kindled except by a lighted sod brought 
from the priest's house. And the ashes of this blessed turf are 
afterwards sprinkled on the floor and the threshold of the house. 
Neither fire, nor water, nor milk, nor salt should be given away 
for love or money, and if a wayfarer is given a cup of milk, he 
must drink it in the house, and salt must be mixed with it. Salt 
and water as a drink is at all times considered a potent charm 


against evil, if properly prepared by a fairy doctor and the magio 
words said over it. 

One day in May a young girl lay down to rest at noontide on a 
fairy rath and fell asleep — a thing of great danger, for the fairies 
are strong in power during the May month, and are particularly 
on the watch for a mortal bride to carry away to the fairy man- 
sions, for they love the sight of human beauty. So they spirited 
away the young sleeping girl, and only left a shadowy resem- 
blance of her lying on the rath. Evening came on, and as the 
young girl had not returned, her mother sent out messengers in 
all directions to look for her. At last she was found on the fairy 
rath, lying quite unconscious, like one dead. 

They carried her home and laid her on her bed, but she neither 
spoke nor moved. So three days passed over. Then they thought 
it right to send for the fairy doctor. At once he said that she 
was fairy struck, and he gave them a salve made of herbs to 
anoint her hands and her brow every morning at sunrise, and every 
night when the moon rose ; and salt was sprinkled on the thresh- 
old and round her bed where she lay sleeping. This was done for 
six days and six nights, and then the girl rose up suddenly^ and 
asked for food. They gave her to eat, but asked no questions, 
only watched her that she should not quit the house. And then 
she fixed her eyes on them steadily and said — 

i( Why did you bring me back ? I was so happy. I was in a 
beautiful palace where lovely ladies and young princes were 
dancing to the sweetest music ; and they made me dance with 
them, and threw a mantle over me of rich gold : and now it is all 
gone, and you have brought me back, and I shall never, never see 
the beautiful palace more." 

Then the mother wept and said — 

*' Oh, child, stay with me, for I have no other daughter, and if 
the fairies take you from me I shall die." 

"When the girl heard this, she fell on her mother's neck and 
kissed her, and promised that she would never again go near the 
fairy rath while she lived, for the fairy doctor told her that if 
ever she lay down there again and slept, she would never return 
alive to her home any more. 



Candlemas day, the 2nd of February, used to be held in the old 
pagan times as a kind of saturnalia, with dances and torches and 


many unholy rites. But these gave occasion to so much ill con- 
duct that in the ninth century the Pope abolished the festival, 
and substituted for it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed 
Virgin, when candles were lit in her honour. Hence the name of 


Whitsuntide is a very fatal and unlucky time. Especially be- 
ware of water then, for- there is an evil spirit in it, and no one 
should venture to bathe, nor to sail in a boat for fear of being 
drowned ; nor to go a journey where water has to be crossed. And 
everything in the house must be sprinkled with holy water at 
Whitsuntide to keep away the fairies, who at that season are 
very active and malicious, and bewitch the cattle, and carry off 
the young children, and come up from the sea to hold strange 
midnight revels, when they kill with their fairy darts the un- 
happy mortal who crosses their path and pries at their mysteries. 


There was a widow woman with one son, who had a nice farm 
of her own close to a lake, and she took great pains in the culti- 
vation of the land, and her corn was the best in the whole 
country. But when nearly ripe, and just fit for cutting, she found 
to her dismay that every night it was trampled down and 
cruelly damaged ; jet no one could tell by what means it was 

So she set her son to watch. And at midnight he heard a great 
noise and a rushing of waves on the beach, and up out of the 
lake came a great troop of horses, who began to graze the corn 
and trample it down madly with their hoofs. 

When he told all this to his mother she bade him watch the 
next night also, but to take several of the men with him furnished 
with bridles, and when the horses rose from the lake they were to 
fling the bridles over as many as they could catch. > 

Now at midnight there was the same noise heard again, and the 
rush of the waves, and in an instant all the field was filled with 
the fairy horses, grazing the corn and trampling it down. The 
men pursued them, but only succeeded in capturing one, and he 
was the noblest of the lot. * The rest all plunged back into the 
lake. However, the men brought home the captured horse to the 
widow, and he was put in the stable and grew big and strong, 
and never another horse came up out of the lake, nor was the 
corn touched after that night of his capture. But when a year 


had passed by the widow said it was a shame to keep so fine a 
horse idle, and she bade the young man, her son, take him out to 
the hunt that was held that day by all the great gentry of the 
country, for it was Whitsuntide. 

And, in truth, the horse carried him splendidly at the hunt, and 
every one admired both the fine young rider and his steed. But 
as he was returning home, when they came within sight of the 
lake from which the fairy steed had risen, he began to plunge 
violently, and finally threw his rider. And the young man s foot 
being unfortunately caught in the stirrup, he was dragged along 
till he was torn limb from limb, while the horse still continued 
galloping on madly to the water, leaving some fragment of the 
unhappy lad after him on the road, till they reached the margin 
of the lake, when the horse shook off the last limb of the dead 
youth from him, and plunging into the waves disappeared from 

The people reverently gathered up the remains of the dead, and 
erected a monument of stones over the lad in a field by the edge 
of the lake ; and every one that passes by still lays a stone and 
says a prayer that the spirit of the dead may rest in peace. 

The phantom horses were never seen again, but the lake has an 
evil reputation even to this day amongst the people ; and no one 
would venture a boat on it after sundown at Whitsuntide, or 
during the time of the ripening of the corn, or when the harvest 
is ready for the sickle, for strange sounds are heard at night, like 
the wild galloping of a horse across the meadow, along with the 
cries as of a man in his death agony. 


The ancient Irish divided the year into summer and winter — 
Samrath and Gheimrath ; the former beginning in May, the latter 
in November, called also Sam-fuim (summer end). At this season, 
when the sun dies, the powers of darkness exercise great and evil 
influence over all things. The witch -women say they can then 
ride at night through the air with Diana of the Ephesians, and 
Herodias, and others leagued with the devil: and change men to 
beasts ; and ride with the dead and cover leagues of ground on 
swift spirit-horses. Also on November Eve, by certain incan- 
tations, the dead can be made to appear and answer questions ; 
but for this purpose blood must be sprinkled on the dead body 
when it rises ; for it is said the spirits love blood. The colour 
excites them and give them for the time the power and the sem- 
blance of life. 


Divination by fire, by earth, and by water, is also largely 
practised; but, as an ancient writer has observed, "All such 
divinations are accursed, for they are worked by the power of the 
fallen angels, who give knowledge only through malice, and to 
bring evil on the questioner. Neither should times and seasons be 
held lucky or unlucky, nor the course of the moon, nor the death 
of the sun, nor the so-called Egyptian days ; for all things are 
blessed to a Christian. And this is the doctrine of the Holy 
Church, which all men should take to heart. .... But a prayer 
to God, written fine, may be worn tyed round the neck, for this is 
done in a holy spirit, and is not against the ordinances of the 

The scapular here alluded to is a piece of cloth on which the 
name of Mary is written on one side and I.H.S. on the other. It 
preserves against evil spirits, and is a passport to heaven, and 
ensures against the pains of hell ; for the Blessed Virgin takes the 
wearer under her especial care. It is placed in a little silk bag 
and worn tied round the neck, and is left upon the dead in their 
coffin for the angels to see at the resurrection. The scapular is 
never given to an evil liver, so it is a sign both of a pious life here 
and a blessed life hereafter. 


All the spells worked on November Eve are performed in the 
name of the devil, who is then forced to reveal the future fate of 
the questioner. The most usual spell is to wash a garment in a 
running brook, then hang it on a thorn bush, and wait to see the 
apparition of the lover, who will come to turn it. But the tricks 
played on this night by young persons on each other have often 
most disastrous consequences. One young girl fell dead with 
fright when an apparition really came and turned the garment she 
had hung on the bush. And a lady narrates that on the 1st of 
November her servant rushed into the room and fainted on the 
floor. ^ On recovering, she said that she had played a trick that 
night in the name of the devil before the looking-glass ; but what 
she had seen she dared not speak of, though the remembrance of 
it would never leave her brain, and she knew the shock would kill 
her. They tried to laugh her out of her fears, but the next night 
she was found quite dead, with her features horribly contorted, 
lying on the floor before the looking-glass, which was shivered to 


Another spell is the building of the house, # Twelve couples are 
taken, each being made of two holly twigs tied together with a 
hempen thread ; these are all named and stuck round in a circle in 
the clay. A live coal is then placed in the centre, and whichever 
couple catches fire first will assuredly be married. Then the 
future husband is invoked in the name of the Evil One to appear 
and quench the flame. 

On one occasion a dead man in his shroud answered the call, 
and silently drew away the girl from the rest of the party. The 
fright turned her brain, and she never recovered her reason after- 
wards. The horror of that apparition haunted her for ever, es- 
pecially as on November Eve it is believed firmly that the dead 
really leave their graves and have power to appear amongst the 

A young girl in a farmer's service was in the loft one night 
looking for eggs when two men came into the stable underneath, 
and through a chink in the boards she could see them quite well 
and hear all they said. To her horror she found that they were 
planning the murder of a man in the neighbourhood who was 
suspected of being an informer, and they settled how they would 
get rid of the body by throwing it into the Shannon. She 
crept home half dead with fright, but did not venture to tell any 
one what she had heard. Next day, however, the news spread 
that the man was missing, and it was feared he was murdered. 
Still the girl was afraid to reveal what she knew, though the 
ghost of the murdered man seemed for ever before her. Finally 
she could bear the place no longer, and, giving up her situation, 
she went to another village some miles off and took service. But 
on November Eve, as she was washing clothes in the Shannon, 
the dead body of the murdered man arose from the water and 
floated towards her, until it lay quite close to her feet. Then she 
knew the hand of God was in it, and that the spirit of the 
dead would not rest till he was avenged. So she went and gave 
information, and on her evidence the two murderers were con- 
victed and executed. 

If the cattle fall sick at this season, it is supposed that some old 
fairy man or woman is lying hid about the place to spy out the 
doings of the family and work some evil spells. 

A farmer had a splendid cow, the pride of his farm, but sud« 
denly it seemed ailing and gave no milk, though every morning it 
went and stood quite patiently under an old hawthorn-tree as if 
some one were milking her. So the man watched the time, and 
presently the cow came of herself and stood under the hawthorn, 
when a little old wizened woman came forth from the trunk of the 


tree, milked the cow, and then retreated into the <ree again. On 
this the farmer sent at once for a fairy doctor, who exorcised the 
cow and gave it a strong potion, after which the spell was broken 
and the cow was restored to its usual good condition and gave 
the milk as heretofore. 

The fairies also exercise a malign influence by making a path 
through a house, when all the children begin to pine and a blight 
falls on the family. 

A farmer who had lost one son by heart disease (always a 
mysterious malady to the peasants) and another by gradual decay, 
consulted a wise fairy woman as to what should be done, for his 
wife also had become delicate and weak. The woman told him 
that on November Eve the fairies had made a road through the 
house, and were going back and forward ever since, and what- 
ever they looked upon was doomed. The only remedy was to 
build up the old door and open another entrance. This the man 
did, and when the witch-women came as usual in the morning to 
beg for water or milk or meal they found no door, and were 
obliged to turn back. After this the spell was taken off the 
household, and they all prospered without fear of the fairies. 


The fairies often take a terrible revenge if they are ever slighted 
or offended. A whole family once came under their ban because 
a fairy woman had been refused admittance into the house. The 
eldest boy lost his sight for some time, and though he recovered 
the use of his eyes yet they always had a strange expression, as if 
he saw some terrible object in the distance that scared him. And 
at last the neighbours grew afraid of the family, for they brought 
ill-luck wherever they went, and nothing prospered that they 

There were six children, all wizened little creatures with 
withered old faces and thin crooked fingers. Every one knew 
they were fairy changelings, and the smith wanted to put them 
on the anvil, and the wise women said they should be passed 
through the fire ; but destiny settled the future for them, for one 
after another they all pined away and died, and the ban of the 
fairies was never lifted from the ill-fated house till the whole 
family lay in the grave. 



This season is still made memorable in Ireland by lighting fires 
on every hill, according to the ancient pagan usage, when the 
Baal fires were kindled as part of the ritual of sun-worship, 
though now they are lit in honour of St. John. The great bonfire 
of the year is still made on St. John's Eve, when all the people 
dance round it, and every young man takes a lighted brand 
from the pile to bring home with him for good luck to the 

In ancient times the sacred fire was lighted with great cere- 
mony on Midsummer Eve ; and on that night all the people of 
the adjacent country kept fixed watch on the western promontory 
of Howth, and the moment the first flash was seen from that spot 
the fact of ignition was announced with wild cries and cheers 
repeated from village to village, when all the local fires began to 
blaze, and Ireland was circled by a cordon of flame rising up from 
every hill. Then the dance and song began round every fire, and 
the wild hurrahs filled the air with the most frantic revelry. 

Many of these ancient customs are still continued, and the fires 
are still lighted on St. John's Eve on every hill in Ireland. When 
the fire has burned down to a red glow the young men strip to 
the waist and leap over or through the flames ; this is done back- 
wards and forwards several times, and he who braves the greatest 
blaze is considered the victor over the powers of evil, and is 
greeted with tremendous applause. When the fire burns still 
lower, the young girls leap the flame, and those who leap clean 
over three times back and forward will be certain of a speedy 
marriage and good luck in after life, with many children. The 
married women then walk through the lines of the burning 
embers ; and when the fire is nearly burnt and trampled down, 
the yearling cattle are driven through the hot ashes, and their 
back is singed with a lighted hazel twig. These hazel rods are 
kept safely afterwards, being considered of immense power to 
drive the cattle to and from the watering places. As the fire 
diminishes the shouting grows fainter, and the song and the dance 
commence ; while professional story-tellers narrate tales of fairy- 
land, or of the good old times long ago, when the kings and 
princes of Ireland dwelt amongst their own people, and there 
was food to eat and wine to drink for all comers to the feast at 
the king's house. When the crowd at length separate, every one 
carries home a brand from the fire, and great virtue is attached to 
the lighted brone which is safely carried to the house without 
breaking or falling to the ground. Many contests also arise 



amongst the young men ; for whoever enters his house first with 
the sacred fire brings the good luck of the year with him. 

On the first Sunday in Midsummer all the young people used to 
stand in lines after leaving chapel, to he hired for service — the 
girls holding white hands, the young men each with an emblem 
of his trade. The evening ended with a dance and the revelry 
was kept up until the dawn of the next day, called " Sorrowful 
Monday," because of the end of the pleasure and the frolic. 


But all this time the fairies were not idle; for it was at this 
very season of dances and festivals, when the mortals around them 
were happiest, that Finvarra the king and his chosen band were 
on the watch to carry off the prettiest girls to the fairy mansions. 

There they kept them for seven years, and at the end of that 
time, when they grew old and ugly, they were sent back, for the 
fairies love nothing so much as youth and beauty. But as a com- 
pensation for the slight put on them, the women were taught all 
the fairy secrets and the magical mystery that lies in herbs, and 
the strange power they have over diseases. So by this means the 
women became all-powerful, and by their charms or spells or 
potions could kill or save as they chose. 

There was a woman of the islands greatly feared, yet respected 
by the people for her knowledge of herbs, which gave her power 
over all diseases. But she never revealed the nature of the herb, 
and always gathered the leaves herself at night and hid them 
under the eaves of the house. And if the person who carried the 
herb home let it fall to the ground by the way, it lost its power ; 
or if they talked of it or showed it to any one, all the virtue went 
out of it. It was to be used secretly and alone, and then the cure 
would be perfected without fail. 

One time, a man who was told of this came over from the main- 
land in a boat with two other men to see the fairy woman ; for 
he was lame from a fall and could do no work. 

Now the woman knew they were coming, for she had a know- 
ledge of all things through the power of divination she had 
learned from the fairies, and could see and hear though no man 
told her. So she went out and prepared the herb, and made a 
salve and brewed a potion, and had all ready for the man and his 

When they appeared she stood at the door and cried, " Enter ! 
This is the lucky day and hour ; have no fear, for you will be 
cured by the power that is in me, and by the herb I give you." 

Then the man bowed down before her, and said, " Oh, mother, 
this is my case," And he told her, that being out one day on th© 


mountains, lie slipped and fell on his face. A mere slight fall, 
but when he rose up his leg was powerless though no hone seemed 

"I know how it happened," she said. " You trod upon a fairy 
herb under which the fairies were resting, and you disturbed them 
and broke in the top of their dwelling, so they were angry and 
struck you on the leg and lamed you out of spite. But my power 
is greater than theirs. Do as I tell you and you will soon be 

So she gave him the salve and the bottle of potion, and bade 
him take it home carefully and use it in silence and alone, and in 
three days the power of the limb would come back to him. 

Then the man offered her silver ; but she refused. 

i( I do not sell my knowledge," she said, " I give it. And so 
the strength and the power remain with me." 

On this the men went their way. But after three days a mes- 
sage came from the man to say that he was cured. And he sent 
the wise woman a handsome present also ; for a gift works no 
evil, though to sell the sacred power and mysteries of knowledge 
for money would be fatal ; for then the spirit of healing that 
dwelt in the woman would have fled away and returned no more* 


In old times in Ireland it was thought right and proper to seem 
to use force in carrying off the bride to her husband. She was 
placed on a swift horse before the bridegroom, while all her 
kindred started in pursuit with shouts and cries. Twelve maidens 
attended the bride, and each was placed on horseback behind the 
young men who rode after the bridal pair. On arriving at her 
future home,|the bride was met on the threshold by the bride- 
groom's mother, who broke an oaten cake over her head as a good 
augury of plenty in the future. In the mountains where horses 
cannot travel, the bridal party walk in procession; the young 
men carrying torches of dried bogwood to light the bride over the 
ravines, for in winter the mountain streams are rapid and dan- 
gerous to cross. 

^ The Celtic ceremonial of marriage resembles the ancient Greek 
ritual in many points. A traveller in Ireland some fifty years 
ago, before politics had quite killed romance and ancient tradition 
in the hearts of the people, thus describes a rustic marriage 
festival which he came on by chance one evening in the wilds ** 
Kerry : — 
A large hawthorn tree that stood in the middle of a field near 



a stream was hung all over with bits of coloured stuff, while 
lighted rush candles were placed here and there amongst the 
branches, to symbolize, no doubt, the new life of brightness pre- 
paring for the bridal pair. Then came a procession of boys 
marching slowly with flutes and pipes made of hollow reeds, and 
one struck a'^tin can with a stick at intervals, with a strong rhythm- 
ical cadence. This represented the plectrum. Others rattled 
slates and bones between their fingers, and beat time, after the 
manner of the Crotolistrai — a rude attempt at music, which 
appears amongst all nations of the earth, even the most savage. 
A boy followed, bearing a lighted torch of bogwood. Evidently 
he was Hymen, and the flame of love was his cognizance. After 
him came the betrothed pair hand-in-hand, a large square canopy 
of black stuff being held over their heads ; the emblem, of course, 
of the mystery of love, shrouded and veiled from the prying light 
of day. 

Behind the pair followed two attendants bearing high over the 
heads of the young couple a sieve filled with meal ; a sign of the 
plenty that would be in their house, and an omen of good luck 
and the blessing of children. 

A wild chorus of dancers and singers closed the procession; the 
chorus of the epithalamium, and grotesque figures, probably the 
traditional fauns and satyrs, nymphs and bacchanals, mingled 
together with mad laughter and shouts and waving of green 

The procession then moved on to a bonfire, evidently the ancient 
altar ; and having gone round it three times, the black shroud was 
lifted from the bridal pair, and they kissed each other before all 
the people, who shouted and waved their branches in approval. 

Then the preparations for the marriage supper began, on 
which, however, the traveller left them, having laid some money 
oh the altar as an offering of good-will for the marriage future. 
At the wedding supper there was always plenty of eating 
and drinking, and dancing and the feast were prolonged till 
near morning, when the wedding song was sung by the whole 
party of friends standing, while the bride and bridegroom re- 
mained seated at the head of the table. The chorus of one of 
these ancient songs maybe thus literally translated from the Irish — 

w It is not day, nor yet day, 
It is not day, nor yet morning ; 
It is not day, nor yet day, 
For the moon is shining brightly," 

Another marriage song was sung in Irish frequently, each verse 
ending with the lines — 

** There is sweet enchanting music, and the golden harps are ringing ; 
And twelve comely maidens deck the bride-bed for the bride." 

THE DEAD. 117 

A beautiful new dress was presented to the bride by her husband 
at the marriage feast ; at which also the father paid down her 
dowry before the assembled guests ; and all the place round the 
house was lit by torches when night came on, and the song and 
the dance continued till daylight, with much speech-making and 
drinking of poteen. All fighting was steadily avoided at a 
wedding; for a quarrel would be considered a most unlucky 
omen. A wet day was also held to be yery unlucky, as the 
bride would assuredly weep for sorrow throughout the year. But 
the bright warm sunshine was hailed joyfully, according to the 
old saying — 

M Happy is the bride that the sun shines on ; 
But blessed is the corpse that the rain rains on." 


There are many strange superstitions concerning the dead. 
The people seem to believe in their actual presence, though 
unseen, and to have a great fear and dread of their fatal and mys- 
terious power. 

If a person of doubtful character dies, too bad for heaven, too 
good for hell, they imagine that his soul is sent back to earth, and 
obliged to obey the order of some person who bids him remain in 
a particular place until the Day of Judgment, or until another 
soul is found willing to meet him there, and then they may both 
pass into heaven together, absolved. 

An incident is related that happened in the County Galway, 
concerning this superstition. 

A gentleman of rank and fortune, but of a free and dissipated 
life, became the lover of a pretty girl, one of the tenant's daughters. 
And the girl was so devoted to him that perhaps he might have 
married her at last ; but he was killed suddenly, when out hunt- 
ing, by a fall from his horse. 

Some time after, the girl, coming home late one evening, met 
the ghost of her lover, at a very lonesome part of the road. The 
form was the same as when living, but it had no eyes. The girl 
crossed herself, on which the ghost disappeared. 

Again she met the same apparition afc night, and a third 
time, when the ghost stood right before her in the path, so 
that she could not pass. Then she spoke, and asked in the 
name of God and the good angels, why he appeared to her ; 
and he answered, that he could not rest in his grave till he 
had received some command from her, which he was bound to 


" Then," slie said, " go stand by the gate of heaven till the 
Judgment Day, and look in at the blessed dead on their 
thrones, but you may not enter. This is my judgment on your 

On this the ghost sighed deeply and vanished, and was seen no 
more. But the girl prayed earnestly that she soon might meet 
her lover at the gate of heaven, whither she had sent him, that so 
both might enter together into the blessed land. And thus it 
happened ; for by that day year she was carried to her grave in 
the churchyard, but her soul went forth to meet her lover, where 
he waited for her by the gate of heaven ; and through her love he 
was absolved, and permitted to enter within the gate before the 
Judgment Day. 

It was considered disrespectful to the dead to take a short 
cut when carrying the coffin to the grave. 

In the Islands, when a person is dying, they place twelve lighted 
rushes round the bed. This, they say, is to prevent the devil 
coming for the soul; for nothing evil can pass a circle of fire. 
They also forbid crying for the dead until three hours have passed 
hjf lest the wail of* the mourners should waken the dogs who are 
waiting to devour the souls of men before they can reach the 
throne of God. 

It is a very general custom during some nights after a death to 
leave food outside the house — a griddle cake, or a dish of 
potatoes. If it is gone in the morning, the spirits must have 
taken it ; for no human being would touch the food left for the 

The great and old families of Ireland consider it (right ito be 
buried with their kindred, and are brought from any distance, 
however remote, to be laid in the ancient graveyard of the race. 

A young man of family having died far away, from fever, 
it was thought advisable not to bring him home, but to bury him 
where he died. However, on the night of the funeral a phantom 
hearse with four black horses stopped at the churchyard. Some 
men then entered with spades and shovels and dug a grave, after 
Which the hearse drove away. But next morning no sign of the 
grave was to be found, except a long line marked out, the length 
of a man's coffin. 

It is unlucky and a bad omen to carry fire out of a house where 
any one is ill. A gentleman one day stopped at a cabin to get a light 


for his cigar, and having wished good morning in the usual friendly 
fashion, he took a stick from the fire, Mew it into a blaze, and 
was walking away, when the woman of the house rose up fiercely 
and told him it was an evil thing to take fire away when her 
husband was dying. On looking round he saw a wretched 
skeleton lying on a bed of straw ; so he flung back the stick 
at once, and fled from the place, leaving his blessing in the 
form of a silver offering, to neutralize the evil of the abducted 

After the priest has left a dying person, and confession has 
been made, all the family kneel round the bed reciting the Litany 
for the Dying, and holy water is sprinkled over the room until the 
soul departs. 

Then they all rise and begin the mournful death-wail in a loud 
voice ; and by this cry all the people in the village know the exact 
moment of the death, and each one that hears it utters a prayer 
for the departing soul. 

At the wake the corpse is often dressed in the habit of a 
religious order. A cross is placed in the hands and the scapular 
on the breast. Candles are lighted all round in a circle, and the 
friends and relatives arrange themselves in due order, the nearest 
of kin being at the head. At intervals they all stand up and 
intone the death-wail, rocking back and forward over the dead, 
and reciting his virtues ; while the widow and orphans frequently 
salute the corpse with endearing epithets, and recall the happy 
days they spent together. 

When the coffin is borne to the grave each person present helps 
to carry it a little way; for this is considered a mode of showing 
honour to the dead. The nearest relatives take the front handles 
first ; then after a little while they move to the back and others 
take their place, until every person in turn has borne the head of 
the coffin to the grave — for it would be dishonourable to the 
dead to omit this mark of respect. 

As the coffin is lowered into the grave the death-cry rises up 
with a loud and bitter wail, and the excitement often becomes so 
great that women have fallen into hysterics ; and at one funeral a 
young girl in her agony^ of grief jumped into her father's grave 
and was taken up insensible. 


Fhom ancient times the wakes, or funeral games, in Ireland were 
^eld with many strange observances carried down by tradition 


from the pagan era. Some of the rites, however, were so revolt- 
ing and monstrous that the priesthood used all their influence to 
put them down. The old funeral customs, in consequence, have 
now heen discontiaued almost entirely amongst the people, and 
the ancient traditional usages are unknown to the new generation, 
though the elders of the village can yet remember them. An old 
man still living thus described to an inquiring antiquary and 
lover of folk-lore, his experience of the ceremonial of a wake at 
which he had been present in the South of Ireland, when he was 
quite a youth, some fifty years before. 

" One dark winter's night, about seven o'clock, a large party of 
us," he said, " young men and women, perhaps thirty or more, set 
out across the mountain to attend a wake at the house of a rich 
farmer, about three miles off. All the young men carried lighted 
torches, for the way was rugged and dangerous; and by their 
light we guided the women as best we could over the deep 
clefts and across the rapid streams, swollen by the winter's rain. 
The girls took off their shoes and stockings and walked barefoot, 
but where the water was heavy and deep the men carried them 
across in their arms or on their backs. In this way we all arrived 
at last at the farmhouse, and found a great assemblage in the 
large barn, which was hung throughout with branches of ever 
green and festoons of laurel and holly. 

" At one end of the barn, on a bed decorated with branches of 
green leaves, lay the corpse, an old woman of eighty, the mother 
of the man of the house. He stood by the head of the dead 
woman, while all the near relatives had seats round. Then the 
mourning women entered and sat down on the ground in a circle, 
one in the centre cloaked and hooded, who began the chant or 
funeral wail, all the rest joining in chorus. After an interval 
there would come a deep silence ; then the chant began again, and 
when it was over the women rose up and went out, leaving the 
place free for the next comers, who acted a play full of ancient 
symbolic meaning. But, first, whisky was served round, and the 
pipers played ; for every village had sent their best player and 
singer to honour the wake. 

" When a great space was cleared in the centre of the barn, 
the first set of players entered. They wore masks and fantastic 
garments, and each carried a long spear and a bit of plaited straw 
on the arm for a shield. At once they began to build a fort, as it 
were, marking out the size with their spears, and using some rough 
play with the spectators. While thus engaged a band of enemies 
appeared, also masked and armed. And now a great fight began 
and many prisoners were taken ; but to save slaughter a horn was 
blown, and a fight demanded between the two best champions of 
the hostile forces. Two of the finest young men were then 
selected and placed at opposite ends of the barn, when they ran a 


tilt against one another with their spears, uttering fierce, loud cries, 
and making terrible demonstrations. At length one fell down as 
if mortally wounded ; then all the hooded women came in again 
and keened over him, a male voice at intervals reciting his deeds, 
while the pipers played martial tunes. But on its being suggested 
that perhaps he was not dead at all, an herb doctor was sent for to 
look at him ; and an aged man with a flowing white beard was 
led in, carrying a huge bundle of herbs. With these he per- 
formed sundry strange incantations, until finally the dead man 
sat up and was carried off the field by his comrades, with shouts 
of triumph. So ended the first play. 

" Then supper was served and more whisky drunk, after which 
another play was acted of a different kind. A table was set in 
the middle of the barn, and two chairs, while all the people, about 
a hundred or more, gathered round in a circle. Then two men, 
dressed as judges, took their seats, with guards beside them, and 
called on another man to come forth and address the people. On 
this a young man sprang on the table and poured forth an oration 
in Irish, full of the most grotesque fun and sharp allusions, at 
which the crowd roared with laughter. Then he gave out a verse 
like a psalm, in gibberish Irish, and bade the people say it after 
him* It ran like this, being translated — 

" * Yellow Macauly has come from Spain, 
He brought sweet music out of a bag, 
Sing See-saw, Sulla Vick Dhau, 
Sulla, Sulla Vick JDhau Hgh. 9 

(That is, Solomon, son of David the King.) 

u If any one failed to repeat this verse after him he was ordered \ 
to prison by the judges, and the guards seized him to cut off his 
head ; or if any one laughed the judge sentenced him, saying in < 
Irish, ' Seize that man, he is a pagan : he is mocking the Christian 
faith. Let him die ! ' 

u After this the professional story-teller was in great force, and 
held the listeners enchained by the wonders of his narration and the 
passionate force of his declamation. So the strange revelry went 
on, and the feasting and the drinking, till sunrise, when many of 
the guests returned to their homes, but others stayed with the 
family till the coffin was lifted for the grave." 

Full details of these strange wake orgies can seldom be obtained, 
for the people are afraid of the priesthood/ who have vehemently- 
denounced them. Yet the peasants cling to them with a mysterious 1 
reverence, and do not see the immorality of many of the wake i 
practices. They accept them as mysteries, ancient usages of their t. 


forefathers, to be sacredly observed, or the vengeance of the dead 
would fall on them. . ' . 

According to all accounts an immense amount of dramatic talent 
•was displayed by the actors of these fantastic and symbolic plays. 
An intelligent peasant, who was brought to see the acting at the 
Dublin theatre, declared on his return : " I have now seen the 
great English actors, and heard plays in the English tongue, but 
poor and dull they seemed to me after the acting of our own 
people at the wakes and fairs ; for it is a truth, the English cannot 
make us weep and laugh as I have seen the crowds with us when 
the players played and the poets recited their stories." 

The Celts certainly have a strong dramatic tendency, and there 
are many peasant families in Ireland who have been distinguished 
for generations as bards and actors, and have a natural and 
hereditary gift for music and song. 

On the subject of wake orgies, a clever writer observes that 
they are evidently a remnant of paganism, and formed part of 
those Druidic rites meant to propitiate the evil spirits and the 
demons of darkness and doom ; for the influence of Druidism 
lasted long after the establishment of Christianity. The Druid 
priests took shelter with the people, and exercised a powerful and 
mysterious sway over them by their magic spells. Druid practices 
were known to exist down to the time of the Norman invasion in 
the twelfth century, and even for centuries after; and to this 
Druidic influence may be traced the sarcasms on Christianity 
which are occasionally introduced into the mystery plays of the 
wake ceremonial. As in the one called " Hold the Light," where 
the passion of the Lord Christ is travestied with grotesque imi- 
tation. The same writer describes the play acted at wakes called 
u The Building of the Ship," a symbolic rite still older than 
Druidism, and probably a remnant of the primitive Arkite 
worship. This was followed by a scene called "Drawing the 
Ship out of the Mud." It was against these two plays that the 
anathemas of the Church were chiefly directed, in consequence of 
their gross immorality, and they have now entirely ceased to form 
any portion of the wake ceremonial of Ireland. Hindu priests 
would recognize some of the ceremonies as the same which are 
etill practised in their own temples ; and travellers have traced a 
similarity also in these ancient usages to the " big canoe games " 
of the Mandan Indians. 

In the next play, the Hierophant, or teacher of the games, 
orders all the men out of the room ; a young girl is then dressed 
with a hide thrown over her, and horns on her head, to simulate a 
cow, while her maidens form a circle and slowly dance round her 
to music, on which a loud knocking is heard at the door. " "Who 
wants to enter ? " asks the Hierophant. He is answered, " The 
guards demand admittance for the bull who is without." Admit- 


tance Is refused, and the maidens and the cow affect great alarm. 
Still the knocking goes on, and finally the door is burst open and 
the bull enters. lie also is robed with a hide and wears horns, 
and is surrounded by a band of young men as his guards.^ He 
endeavours to seize the cow, who is defended by her maidens, 
forming the dramatic incidents of the play. A general mock fight 
now takes place between the guards and the maidens, and the 
scene ends with uproarious hilarity and the capture of the cow. 

There are other practices mentioned by writers on the subject, 
who trace in the Irish observances a tradition of the Cabyric rites, 
and also a striking similarity to the idolatrous practices of Hin- 
dustan as described in the " Asiatic Researches, and in Moore's 
" Hiudu Pantheon." 

It is remarkable also that in the Polynesian Islands the funeral 
rites were accompanied by somewhat similar ceremonies. These 
the early missionaries viewed with horror, and finally succeeded 
in extirpating them. 

These ancient funeral rites have now disappeared in Ireland ; 
still the subject remains one of intense interest to the ethnologist 
and antiquary, who will find in the details indications of the 
oldest idolatries of the world, especially of that primitive religion 
called Arkite, as in the dramatic performance called "The Building 
of the Ship," where one man prostrates himself on the ground as 
the ship, while two others sit head and foot to represent the prow 
and stern. This ship drama is, perhaps, a fragment of the earliest 
tradition of humanity represented by a visible symbol to illustrate 
the legend of the Deluge© 


Ireland, from its remote position and immunity from Roman 
conquest, remained longer in the possession of the Druidic mys- 
teries than any other nation of Europe. Besides, the early mis- 
sionaries adopted no intolerant measures against the ancient creed; 
no persecutions are recorded. The sacred trees were not cut 
down, nor the sacrificial stones destroyed ; but the holy wells and 
the antique monuments were sanctified by association with a 
saint's name and history, and from being objects of pagan idolatry 
became shrines of prayer and centres of hohr worship, where 
enlightened men preached the new gospel of light, purity, and 
love to an awe-struck, wondering multitude. 

To this tolerant policy, as Mr. "Windell, the learned antiquary, 
remarks, may be attributed the strong endurance of Druidic 
superstitions and usages in Ireland, Much also is due to the 
peculiar and truly Oriental tenacity with which the Irish at all 


times have clung to the customs and traditions of their forefathers. 
The belief in a fairy race ever present amongst them and around 
them, is one of these ineffaceable superstitions which the people 
still hold with a faith as fervent as those of the first Aryan tribes 
who wandered westward from the mystic East, where all creeds, 
symbols, and myths had their origin. 

Many other broken fragments of the early ritual of the world 
can also still be traced in the popular superstitions and usages of 
the people. The sun and moon with the mysterious powers of 
nature were the first gods of humanity. Astarte, Ashtaroth, and 
Isis were all the same moon-goddess under different names, and all 
were represented by the symbol of the horned cow. The Egyptians 
typified the sun and moon, Osiris and Isis, as the ox and the cow ; 
and these symbols were still used at the Irish wake ceremonial 
until very recently : for the Druids also worshipped the sun and 
moon and the winds, and venerated trees, fountains, rivers, and 
pillar stones, like their Persian ancestry. But the Irish considered 
the east wind demoniacal, the Druidic wind of accursed power. 
They called it "The Red Wind," "A wind that blasts the trees 
and withers men is that Red Wind," according to a bard. 

The Hindus had their triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, 
representing the sun at morning, noon, and evening ; so the Irish 
Druids had their triad of Baal, Budh, and Grian, and they called 
the May festival Ld Budha na Baal tinne (the day of Buddha of 
the Baal fires). Chrishna was another Hindu name for the sun, 
and the Irish had Orias, a name for the sun likewise. 

The Hindus had their cattle, or cow festival in spring, when 
they walked round the animals with great ceremony, always going 
westward, while they flung garlands on their horns. So in Ireland 
there was also a procession, when the cows were decorated with 
vervain and the rowan, and were sprinkled with the Sgaith-an- 
Tobar (the purity of the well), that is, the first water drawn from 
a sacred well after midnight on May Eve. This was considered an 
effective antidote to witchcraft, and whoever succeeded in being 
first at the well, cast into it a tuft of grass, called Cuisheag grass, 
to show that the Sgaith-an-Tobar had been abstracted. So also 
the Hindus esteem the Cusha grass as sacred, and cast it into their 
wells for a like purpose. The ceremonial of wreathing the horns 
of the cows was in honour of the moon, the wife of the Sun-god, 
whose emblem, as we know, all through the East, as in Ireland, 
was the horned cow. 

Many and strange, indeed, are the analogies between the prac- 
tices of the Egyptians, Hindus, Persians, and the Irish ; and the 
legend may, after all, have some truth in it which brings the first 
Colonists of Ireland from Egypt, and makes the first Queen of 
Erin a daughter of Pharaoh. The ancient war-cry of the Irish clans 
was Pharrah! a word that has no significance in the Irish Ian- 


guage,*but which is supposed by some antiquarians to be the same 
as Phi-Ma, the sun—the regal title of the Egyptian kings, by which 
they were invoked by the warriors as they rushed into battle. 

The ancient funeral ceremonies of Egypt can be still seen and 
studied at the wake of an Irish peasant ; especially in that singu- 
lar symbol, when a man and a woman appeared, one bearing the 
head of an ox, the other that of a cow at the funeral games ; a 
custom which has now lost all its meaning, but which originally, 
no doubt, represented Isis and Osiris waiting to receive the soul 
of the dead. 

The Persians held that fire and water were the most sacred of 
all things and so did the Irish; hence their reverence for the 
waters of purification at the holy wells. And as the heathen 
passed their children and cattle through the fire to Moloch,, so 
the Irish performed the same rite at the Baal festival, when the 
young men leaped through the flames, and the cattle were driven 
through the hot embers. Fire was held to be the visible symbol 
of the invisible God, endowed with mystic cleansing powers, and 
the ascending flame was thought to be a divine spirit dwelling in 
the substance ignited. For this reason the Irish made a circle of 
fire round their children and their cattle to guard them from evil, 
holding the belief that no evil spirit could pass this special emblem 
of divinity. 

But even in matters less divine there was a similarity between 
the Persian and Irish usages. The Persian Magi made a consider- 
able revenue from the sacred fire ; for each devotee paid a silver 
coin for the ember carried away from the holy temple, to light 
the home fire on the day of the Sun-festival. And fire was also 
a source of wealth to the Druid priests; each person being 
obliged to buy it from them on the great day of Baal. There- 
fore it was a sin to give away fire on that day ; and the habit of 
borrowing it to light the home fire was denounced as fatal and 
unlucky. The true reason being that to borrow the sacred element 
was to injure the priestly revenue. Yet this ancient ordinance is 
still religiously observed in Ireland; and even to this day no 
peasant would venture to give away fire or milk on May Bay, 
for fear of the worst consequences to the giver ; while any one 
who came to borrow a lighted brand would be looked on as an 
emissary of Satan. 

The sacred fire of Tara (Tamhair-na-Iligh, Tara of the Kings) 
was only lit every three years, and then with great ceremony. 
The sun's rays were concentrated by means of a brazen lens, on 
some pieces of dried wood, and from this alone were all the sacred 
fires in Ireland kindled in the holy places. 

At the present time, if a peasant has to light a fire in the house 
on May morning, which does not often happen, as the custom is 
to keep the fire burning all night, a lighted sod taken from the 


priest's house is esteemed of great virtue and sacredness, just as 
m old time a lighted brand from the altar of Baal was used to 
light the domestic fire. 

The sacred fire was also obtained from the friction of wood, or 
the striking of stones ; and it was supposed that the spirits of fire 
dwelt in these objects, and when the priest invoked them to appear, 
they brought good luck to the household for the coming year ; but 
if invoked by other hands on that special day their influence was 

The migration of races can be clearly traced by their supersti- 
tions. The oldest seem to have come from Persia and Egypt ; 
while mutilated, though still authentic portions of the old-world 
ritual can still be found all along the Mediterranean, marking the 
westward progress of the primitive nations, till the last wave 
found a resting-place on our own far-distant shores, washed by 
the waters of the Atlantic. 

Assyria was the teacher of Egypt; Egypt of Greece; and 
Greece of Europe ; and little seems to have been lost during the 
progress of sixty centuries. The old myths still remain at the 
base of all thought and all creeds ; broken fragments of the primal 
faith; shadowy traditions of some great human life that once 
was real and actual, or of some great event that changed the 
destiny of nations, and the echo of which still vibrates through 
the legends, the songs, the poetry, and the usages of every people 
on the face of the earth. 

Persia, Egypt, India, the Teuton, and the Celt, have all the 
same primal ideas in their mythology, and the same instincts of 
superstition; and the signs to which past ages have given a 
mystic meaning still come to us laden with a fateful significance, 
even in this advanced era of culture and the triumph of reason. 

We still cannot help believing that prophecies come in the 
night, for the mystical and prophetic nature of dreams is con- 
firmed by the personal experience of almost every human being ; 
and few are found brave enough, even amongst the educated 
classes, lightly to break through a traditional usage on which all 
the ages have set the seal of good or ill luck. 

Superstition, or the belief in unseen, mysterious, spiritual in- 
fluences, is an instinct of human nature. A vague, shadowy, 
formless belief, certainly, yet ineradicable. We feel that our 
dual humanity, the material as well as the psychical, holds some 
strange and mystic relation with an unseen spiritual world, though 
we cannot define the limits, nor bring it under a law. 

Before the written word existed, the people strove to express 
their creed and hjgtory in symbols. Divine nations, like the 
Greeks, made the symbols beautiful, and these the uncultured 
tribes may afterwards have distorted into grotesque and rude 
imitations j but the eame idea can, be traced through all forms 


by which humanity has tried to represent history, nature, and 

And the old Pagan customs of the early world seem to have an 
enduring vitality, and to have become fixed, even in the usages of 
the enlightened nineteenth century. The Persian Magi and the 
Druid priest exacted a tribute of the firstlings of the flock as a 
burnt-offering to the Sun-god on the day of his festival; so in 
modern times, we sacrifice a lamb at Easter and an ox at Christ- 
mas, retaining the pagan rite while we honour the Christian 
legend. The Christmas-tree is still lighted to guide the Sun-god 
back to life ; and the spotted cake, anciently made in his honour, 
of corn and fruit, still finds its place on our tables, as the plum 
pudding of civilization, even as its primitive prototype was laid 
on the sacred altars of the Persians as an offering of gratitude to 
the Lord of Light and Life, 

The widespread range of the same traditional customs and super- 
stitions amongst all peoples and through every age is a most inter- 
esting study, as showing the primitive unity of the human race and 
the subsequent divergence of the nations, even as recorded in the 
Biblical narrative ; but it would be endless to follow the lines of 
affinity that run through all the creeds, legends, usages and super- 
stitions of the world. Thus the Algonquil Indians, according to 
Mr. Leland, held the ash-tree and the elm as sacred and mystical, 
because these trees were made human. Of the ash was made 
man, of the elm, woman. 

So in the Edda, we read of the mighty ash-tree whose summit 
reaches to heaven, and whose roots go down to hell. Two foun- 
tains sprang from beneath it — one the knowledge of all that is ; 
the other of all that shall be. And out of the wood man was 

The Irish also hold the ash-tree as all-powerful against witch- 
craft ; therefore branches of it were wreathed rounds the horns of 
the cattle, and round the child's cradle to keep off evil influence ; 
while in all their weird tales of the fairy dances with the dead, 
the mortals drawn into their company are infallibly safe if they 
get possession of a branch of the ash-tree, and hold it safely till 
out of reach of the evil spell. 

The alder is another of the mystical trees of Ireland, held 
sacred, as in Persia, on account of its possessing strange mys- 
terious properties and powers to avert evil ; and the hawthorn 
likewise was sacred to the Irish fairies, therefore a libation of 
milk was poured over the roots on May Day, as the Hindus 
poured milk on the earth round the sacred tree as an offering to 
the manes of the dead. 

In the Transylvanian legends and superstitions, of which 
Madame Gerard has recently given an interesting record, many 
will be found identical with; he Irish ; such as these— Friday m 


the most unlucky day of all the week ; evil spirits are strongest 
between sunset and midnight; it is ill-luck to have your path 
crossed by a hare ; on entering a strange house sit down a 
moment, or a death will happen ; spitting is at all times most 
efficacious against the influence of the devil; an infant's nails 
should be bitten, not cut ; never rock an empty cradle ; the robin 
and the swallow bring luck ; never kill a spider ; the crow and 
a black hen are ominous of evil. The dead are only in a 
trance ; ( they hear-everything but can makt no sign. The Irish 
also believe that the dead are allowed at certain^ times to visit 
their living kindred. A whirlwind denotes that a devil is 
dancing with a witch ; so the Irish believe that the fairies are 
rushing by in the whirlwind intent on carrying off some mortal 
victim to the fairy mansions ; and the only help is to fling clay at 
the passing wind, when the fairies will be obliged to drop the 
mortal child, or the beautiful young girl they have abducted. 

But the Roumanians are a mixed race — Greek, Slav, Teuton, 
Gypsey — and many of their superstitions are dark and gloomy, 
especially those relating to vampires, wolves, and terrible demons, 
evil spirits, and fearful witches. The Irish legends rarely deal 
with anything terrible or revolting. They circle, in general, 
round the mythus of the fairy, a bright and beautiful creation, 
only living for pleasure, music, and the dance, and rarely malig- 
nant or ill-natured, except when their dancing grounds are inter- 
fered with, or when they are not treated with proper generous 
consideration in the matter of wine. 

The strange dance practised at Midsummer in Ireland round 
the Baal fires can clearly be traced from the East to Erin ; and in 
its origin was evidently a religious symbol and rite. The Greeks 
practised it from the most ancient times. It was called the 
Pyrrhic dance — from pur fire — and simulated the windings of a 

The Syrtos, the great national dance of the iEgean Islands, so 
well described by Mr. Bent in his interesting book on the Oyclades, 
also resembles the winding of a serpent. The dancers hold hands 
and circle round in tortuous curves precisely as in Ireland, where 
the line of dancers with joined hands, always moving from east to 
west, extends sometimes for a mile in length. It was probably a 
mystic dance symbolic of the path of the sun, though the esoteric 
meaning has now been entirely lost ; part of the primal range of 
ideas out of which man first formed a religion and ritual of wor- 

Many other practices and superstitions of the Greek islanders 
strongly resemble the Irish. The Nereids of the iEgean play the 
part of the Irish fairies, and are as capricious though often more 
malignant. If a child grows wan and weak the Nereids have 
struck it ; and it is laid naked for a night on the altar steps to 


test the truth of the suspicion. If the poor child dies under the 
trial, then it certainly was bewitched by the evil spirits, and the 
parents are well content to be rid of the unholy thing. 

The funeral wail over the dead also closely resembles the Irish, 
when the hired mourning women sit round the corpse, tear their 
hair, beat their breast and rock to and fro, intoning in a monotone 
chant the praises of the deceased, the cries at times rising to a 
scream, in a frenzy of grief and despair. 

The islanders likewise use many charms and incantations like 
the Irish, while the old women amongst them display wonderful 
knowledge of the mystic nature and power of herbs, and are most 
expert in the cure of disease. It is indeed remarkable that, 
amongst all primitive tribes and nations, women have always 
shown the highest skill in the treatment of disease, and have 
been rightly accounted the best doctors, and the most learned in 
mystic medicinal lore. 

The Marquis of Lome, in his graphic and instructive " Canadian 
Pictures," speaks of the wonderful skill of the Indian women, and 
the remarkable cures effected by the squaws through their know- 
ledge of the varied properties of herbs. The Indians also have a 
sweating bath for the sick, such as was used by the ancient Irish. 
A bath is made by stones covered over with branches ; hot water 
is then poured on the stones, and the patient crouches over the 
heated vapour evolved until a violent perspiration is produced, 
which carries off the disease, or the pains in the members, with- 
out fail. The sweating bath of the Irish was made quite on the 
same principles, and is the most effective cure known for pains in 
the bones and feverish disorders. It is still used in the Western 
Islands. ^ " The Sweating House," as it is called, is made of rough 
stones with a narrow entrance, through which the patient creeps 
on all-fours ; when inside, however, he can stand up. A peat fire 
is kindled, and divesting himself of all clothing, he undergoes the 
process of sweating in a profuse perspiration as he lies on the 
stone floor. The place is heated like a baker's oven, but there is 
sufficient ventilation kept up by means of chinks and apertures 
through the stone work of the walls. 

The cures effected by this process are marvellous. As the 
people say of it themselves, " Any disease that has a hold on the 
tones can't stand before it no time at all, at all," 


The belief in the malific influence of the Evil Eye pervades all 
the Greek islands, and the same preventive measures are used as 


in Ireland. An old woman is employed to spit three times at the 
person affected, if she is a person learned in the mysteries and 
accounted wise. Salt and fire are also used as safeguards, precisely 
as the Irish peasant employs them to guard his cattle and children 
from the evil influence. But no superstition is more widely 
spread ; it seems to pervade all the world, and to be instinctive to 
humanity. The educated are as susceptible to it as the illiterate, 
and no nerves are strong enough, apparently, to resist the impres- 
sion made by an envious, malicious glance, for a poison that 
blights and withers seems to emanate from it. Reason appeals in 
vain; the feelings cannot be overcome that the presence and 
glance of some one person in a room can chill all the natural flow 
of spirits, while the presence of another seems to intensify all our 
mental powers, and transform us for the moment into a higher 

But a malific power, stronger even than the glance of the 
Evil Eye, was exercised by the Bards of Erin : whom they would 
they blessed, but whom they would they also banned ; and the 
poet's malison was more dreaded and was more fatal than any 
other form of imprecation — for the bard had the mystic prophet 
power: he could foresee, and he could denounce. And no man 
could escape from the judgment pronounced by a poet over one he 
desired to injure ; for the poet had the knowledge of all mysteries 
and was Lord over the secrets of life by the power of The Word. 
Therefore poets were emphatically called the tribe of Duars, that 
is, The Men of The Word; for by a word the poets could 
produce deformities in those they disliked, and make them objects 
of scorn and hateful in the sight of other men. 


NuAdhe, the celebrated poet, is remembered in history by a 
memorable exercise of his malific power, and the punishment that 
fell on him in consequence ; for Heaven is just, and even a bard 
cannot escape the penalty due for sin. 

He was nephew to Oaer, the king of Connaught, who reared 
him with all kindness and gentleness as his own son. But by an 
evil fate the wife of Oaer the king loved the young man ; and she 
gave him a silver apple in proof of her love, and further promised 
him the kingdom and herself if he could overthrow Oaer and 
make the people depose him from the sovranty. 

" How can I do this ? " answered Nuadhe, <( for the king has 
ever been kind to me." 

" Ask him for some gift/ said the queen, " that he will refuse, 


and then put a blemish on him for punishment, that so he can he 
no longer king ; " for no one with a blemish was ever suffered to 
reign in Erin. 

" But he refuses me nothing," answered Nuadhe\ 

u Try him," said the queen. " Ask of him the dagger he 
brought from Alba, for he is under a vow never to part with it." 

So Nuadhe' went to him, and asked for the dagger that came 
out of Alba as a gift. 

" Woe is me ! " said the king. " This I cannot grant ; for I am 
under a solemn vow never to part with it, or give it to another." 

Then the poet by his power made a satire on him, and this was 
the form of the imprecation — 

" Evil death, and a short life 

Be on Caer the king ! 
Let the spears of battle wound him, 
Under earth, under ramparts, under stones, 

Let the malediction be on him ! " 

And when Caer rose up in the morning he put his hand to his face 
and found it was disfigured with three blisters, a white, a red, 
and a green. And when he saw the blemish he fled away filled 
with fear that any man should see him, and took refuge in a fort 
with one of his faithful servants, and no one knew where he 
lay hid. 

So Nuadhe* took the kingdom and held it for a year, and had 
the queen to wife. But then grievous to him was the fate of 
Caer, and he set forth to search for him. 

And he was seated in the king's own royal chariot, with the 
king's wife beside him, and the king's greyhound at his feet, and 
all the people wondered at the beauty of the charioteer. 

Now Oaer was in the fort where he had found shelter, and 
when he saw them coming he said — 

" Who is this that is seated in my chariot in the place of the 
champion, and driving my steeds ? " 

But when he saw that it was Nuadhe he fled away and hid 
himself for shame. 

Then Nuadhe drove into the fort in the king's chariot, and 
loosed the dogs to pursue Oaer. And they found him hid under 
the flagstone behind the rock even where the dogs tracked him. 
And Oaer fell down dead from shame on beholding Nuadhe, and 
the rock where he fell flamed up and shivered into fragments, and 
a splinter leaped up high as a man, and struck Nuadhe" on the 
eyes, and blinded him for life. Such was the punishment decreed, 
and just and right was the vengeance of God upon the sin of the 




The Sidhe dwell in the Sifra, or fairy palace of gold and crystal, 
in the heart of the hill, and they have been given youth, beauty, 
joy, and the power over music, yet they are often sad ; for they 
remember that they were once angels in heaven though now cast 
down to earth, and though they have power over all the mysteries 
of Nature, yet they must die without hope of regaining heaven, 
while mortals are certain of immortality. Therefore this one 
sorrow darkens their life, a mournful envy of humanity ; because, 
while man is created immortal, the beautiful fairy race is doomed 
to annihilation. 

One day a great fairy chief asked Columb-Kille if there were 
any hope left to the Sidhe that one day they would regain heaven 
and be restored to their ancient place amongst the angels. But 
the saint answered that hope there was none; their doom was 
fixed, and at the judgmem>day they would pass through death 
into annihilation j for so had it been decreed by the justice of 

On hearing this the fairy chief fell into a profound melancholy, 
and he and all his court sailed away from Ireland, and went back 
to their native country of Armenia, there to await the coming of 
the terrible judgment-day, which is fated to bring the fairy race 
certain death on earth, without any hope of regaining heaven. 

The West of Ireland is peculiarly sacred to ancient superstitions 
of the Sidhe race. There is a poetry in the scenery that touches 
the heart of the people ; they love the beautiful glens, the moun- 
tains rising like towers from the sea, the islands sanctified by the 
memory of a saint, and the green hills where Finvarra holds his 
court. Every lake and mountain has its legend of the spirit-land, 
some holy traditions of a saint, or some historic memory of a 
national hero who flourished in the old great days when Ireland 
had native chiefs and native swords to guard her ; and amongst 
the "Western Irish, especially, the old superstitions of their fore- 
fathers are reverenced with a solemn faith and fervour that is 
almost a religion. Finvarra the king is still believed to rule over 
all the fairies of the west, and Onagh is the fairy queen. Her 
golden hair sweeps the ground, and she is robed in silver gossamer 
all glittering as if with diamonds, but they are dew-drops that 
sparkle over it. 

The queen is more beautiful than any woman of earth, yet Fin- 
varra loves the mortal women best, and wiles them down to his 
fairy palace by the subtle charm of the fairy music, for no one 
who has heard it can resist its power, and they are fated to belong 
to the fairies ever after. Their friends mourn for them as dead 
with much lamentation, but in reality they are leading a joyous 

MUSIC. 133 

life down in the heart of the hill, in the fairy palace with the 
silver columns and the crystal walls. 

Yet sometimes they are not drawn down beneath the earth, 
but remain as usual in ths daily life, though the fairy speU is 
still on them ; and the young men who have once heard the fairy 
harp become possessed by the spirit of music which haunts them 
to their death, and gives them strange power over the souls 
of men. This was the case with Carolan, the celebrated bard. 
He acquired all the magic melody of his notes by sleeping out on 
a fairy rath at night, when the fairy music came to him in his 
dreams ; and on awaking he played the airs from memory. Thus 
it was that he had power to madden men to mirth, or to set them 
weeping as if for the dead, and no one ever before or since played 
the enchanting fairy music like Carolan, the sweet musician of 

There was another man also who heard the fairy music when 
sleeping on a rath, and ever after he was haunted hj the melody 
day and night, till he grew mad and had no pleasure in life, for he 
longed to be with the fairies again that he might hear them sing. 
So one day, driven to despair by the madness of longing, he threw 
himself from the cliff into the mountain lake near the fairy rath, 
and so died and was seen no more. 

In the "Western Islands they believe that the magic, of fairy 
music is so strong that whoever hears it cannot choose but follow 
the sound, and the young girls are drawn away by the enchant- 
ment, and dance all night with Finvarra the king, though in the 
morning they are found fast asleep in bed, yet with a memory of 
all they had heard and seen ; and some say that, while with 
the fairies, the young women learn strange secrets of love potions, 
by which they can work spells and dangerous charms over those 
whose love they desire; or upon any one who has offended and 
spoken ill of them. 

It is a beautiful idea that the Irish airs, so plaintive, mournful, 
and tear-compelling, are but the remembered echoes of that spirit 
music which had power to draw souls away to the fairy mansions, 
and hold them captive by the sweet magic of the melody. 


Music formed the chief part of education in ancient Ireland aa 
in Greece, where the same word signified a song and a law. 
Laws, religion, sciences, and history were all taught in music 
to the Irish people by the Ollamhs, or learned men. The Poets 
chanted the Mos-Catha, or song of battle, to incite the warriors to 


deeds of bravery. The Bards recited the deeds of the chiefs, 
or pleasant tales of love, at the festivals, and struck the harp 
to sustain the voice. The Brehons intoned the law in a reci- 
tative or monotone chant, seated on an eminence in the open 
air, while all the people were gathered round to listen. The 
Senachie chanted the history, genealogies, and traditions of 
the tribe, and the female mourners were instructed by the poets 
in the elegiac measure, or funeral wail over the dead. 

The poet-power was also believed to confer the gift of prophecy ; 
and no great expedition was undertaken by the tribe without the 
advice and sanction of the bard, and especially of the poet- 
priestess of the tribe. Thus Ethna the poetess stood on a high 
stone at the battle of Moytura, and gave inspiration by her chants 
to the warriors of the Tuatha-de-Dananns, and stimulated their 
courage by her prophecies of victory ; and the stone she stood on 
is in existence to this day on the plain of the battle, and is 
still called by the people " the Stone of the Prophetess." 


Tpie Leanan-Sidhe, or the spirit of life, was supposed to be 
the inspirer of the poet and singer, as the Ban-Sidhe was the 
spirit of death, the foreteller of doom. 

The Leanan-Sidhe sometimes took the form of a woman, who 
gave men valour and strength in the battle by her songs. Such 
was Eodain the poetess, by whom Eugene, king of Minister, 
gained complete victory over his foes. But afterwards he gave 
himself up to luxury and pleasure, and went away to Spain, where 
he remained nine years, and took to wife the daughter of the king 
of Spain. At the end of that time he returned to Ireland with a 
band of Spanish followers. But he found his kingdom plundered 
and ruined, and the revellers and drunkards were feasting in his 
banquet hall, and wasting his revenues for their pleasures while 
the people starved. And the whole nation despised the king, and 
would not hear his words when he sat down in his golden 
chair to give just judgment for iniquity. Then Eugene the 
king, in his deep sorrow and humiliation, sent for Eodain the 
poetess to come and give him counsel. So Eodain came to him, 
end upheld him with her strong spirit, for she had the power 
"within her of the poet and the prophet, and she said — 

" Arise now, king, and govern like a true hero, and bring 


confusion on the evil workers. Be strong and fear not, for by- 
strength and justice kings should rule." 

And Eugene the king was guided by her counsel and was 
successful. And he overthrew his enemies and brought back 
peace and order to the land. For the strength of the Leanan- 
Sidhe was in the words of Eodain, the power of the spirit of life 
which is given to the poet and the prophet, by which they inspire 
and guide the hearts of men. 


The Banshee means, especially, the woman of the fairy race, from 
■van, " the Woman — the Beautiful j " the same word from which 
comes Venus. Shiloh-Van was one of the names of Buddha — 
" the son of the woman ; " and some writers aver that in the Irish 
— Sullivan (Sulli-van), may be found this ancient name of 

As the Leanan-Sidhe was the acknowledged spirit of life, 
giving inspiration to the poet and the musician, so the Ban-Sidhe 
was the spirit of death, the most weird and awful of all the fairy 

But only certain families of historic lineage, or persons gifted 
with music and song, are attended by this spirit j for music and 
poetry are fairy gifts, and the possessors of them show kinship to 
the spirit race — therefore they are watched over by the spirit 
of life, which is prophecy and inspiration ; and by the spirit 
of doom, which is the revealer of the secrets of death. 

Sometimes the Banshee assumes the form of some sweet singing 
virgin of the family who died young, and has been given the 
mission by the invisible powers to become the harbinger of coming 
doom to her mortal kindred. Or she may be seen at night as a 
shrouded woman, crouched beneath the trees, lamenting with 
veiled face ; or flying past in the moonlight, crying bitterly : and 
the cry of this spirit is mournful beyond all other sounds on earth, 
and betokens certain death to some member of the family when- 
ever it is heard in the silence of the night. 

The Banshee even follows the old race across the ocean and 
to distant lands ; for space and time offer no hindrance to the 
mystic power which is selected and appointed to bear the prophecy 
of death to a family. Of this a well-authenticated instance 
happened a few years ago, and many now living can attest the 
truth of the narrative. 


A branch of the ancient race of the O'Gradys had settled in 
Canada, far removed, apparently, from all the associations, tra- 
ditions, and mysterious influences of the old land of their fore- 

But one night a strange and mournful lamentation was heard 
outside the house. No word was uttered, only a bitter cry, as of 
one in deepest agony and sorrow, floated through the air. 

Inquiry was made, but no one had been seen near the house at 
the time, though several persons distinctly heard the weird, 
unearthly crv, and a terror fell upon the household, as if some 
supernatural influence had overshadowed them. 

Next day it so happened that the gentleman and his eldest son 
went out boating. As they did not return, however, at the usual 
time for dinner, some alarm was excited, and messengers were 
sent down to the shore to look for them. But no tidings came 
until, precisely at the exact hour of the night when the spirit- 
cry had been heard the previous evening, a crowd of men 
were seen approaching the house, bearing with them the dead 
bodies of the father and the son, who had both been drowned 
by the accidental upsetting of the boat, within sight of land, but 
not near enough for any help to reach them in time. 

Thus the Ban-Sidhe had fulfilled her mission of doom, after 
which she disappeared, and the cry of the spirit of death was heard 
no more, 

At times the spirit-voice is heard in low and soft lamenting, as 
if close to the window. 

Not long ago an ancient lady of noble lineage was lying near 
the death-hour in her stately castle. One evening, after twilight, 
she suddenly unclosed her eyes and pointed to the window, with 
a happy smile on her face. All present looked in the direction, 
but nothing was visible. They heard, however, the sweetest 
music, low, soft, and spiritual, floating round the house, and at 
times apparently close to the window of the sick room. 

Many of the attendants thought it was a trick, and went out to 
search the grounds ; but nothing human was seen. Still the wild 
plaintive singing went on, wandering through the trees like the 
night wind — a low, beautiful music that never ceased all through 
the night. 

Next morning the noble lady lay dead ; then the music ceased, 
and the lamentation from that hour was heard no more. 

There was a gentleman also in the same country who had a 
beautiful daughter, strong and healthy, and a splendid horse- 
woman. She always followed the hounds, and her appearance at 


the hunt attracted unbounded admiration, as no one rode so well 
or looked so beautiful. 

^ One evening there was a ball after the hunt, and the young 
girl moved through the dance with the grace of a fairy queen. 

But that same night a voice came close to the father's window, 
as if the face were laid close to the glass, and he heard a mournful 
lamentation and a cry ; and the Words rang out on the air — 

" In three weeks death : in three weeks the grave — dead — dead 
—dead ! " 

Three times the voice came, and three times he heard the words ; 
but though it was bright moonlight, and he looked from the 
window over all the park, no form was to be seen. 

Next day, his daughter showed symptoms of fever, and exactly 
in three weeks, as the Ban-Sidhe had prophesied, the beautiful 
girl lay dead. 

The night before her death soft music was heard outside the 
house, though no word was spoken by the spirit-voice, and the 
family said the form of a woman crouched beneath a tree, with a 
mantle covering her head, was distinctly visible. But on ap- 
proaching, the phantom disappeared, though the soft, low music 
of the lamentation continued till dawn. 

Then the angel of death entered the house with soundless feet, 
and he breathed upon the beautiful face of the young girl, and 
she rested in the sleep of the dead, beneath the dark shadows of 
his wings. 

Thus the prophecy of the Banshee came true, according to the 
time foretold by the spirit-voice. 


A remarkable account is given in the Bardic Legends of a 
form that appeared to Maeve, queen of Connaught, on the eve of 

Suddenly there stood before the queen's chariot, a tall and 
beautiful woman. She wore a green robe clasped with a golden 
bodkin, a golden fillet on her head, and seven braids for the Dead 
of bright gold were in her hand. Her skin was white as snow 
that falls in the night ; her teeth were as pearls ; her lips red as 
the berries of the mountain ash ; her golden hair fell to the 
ground ; and her voice was sweet as the golden harp-string when 
touched by a skilful hand. 

" "Who art thou, woman ? " asked the queen, in astonishment. 

"I am Feithlhm, the fairy prophetess of the Bath of Cruachan," 
she answered. 


" 'Tis well, O Feithlinn the prophetess," said Maeve ; " but 
what dost thou foresee concerning our hosts ? " 

" I foresee bloodshed ; I foresee power ; I foresee defeat ! " 
answered the prophetess. 

" My couriers have brought me good tidings ! " said the queen ; 
" my army is strong, my warriors are well prepared. But speak 
the truth, O prophetess : for my soul knows no fear." 

" I foresee bloodshed ; I 'foresee victory ! " answered the 
prophetess the second time. 

"But I have nothing to fear from the Ultonians," said the 
queen, " for my couriers have arrived, and my enemies are under 
dread. Yet, speak the truth, prophetess, that our hosts may 
know it." 

" I foresee bloodshed ; I foresee conquest ; I foresee death ! " 
answered the prophetess, for the third time. 

" To me then it belongs not, thy prophecy of evil," replied the 
queen, in anger. 

" Be it thine, and on thy own head." 

And even as she spoke the prophet maiden disappeared, and the 
queen saw her no more. 

But it so happened that, some time afterwards, Queen Maeve 
was cruelly slain by her own kinsman, at Lough Rea by the 
Shannon, to avenge the assistance she had given in war to the 
king of Ulster ; there is an island in the lake where is shown the 
spot where the great queen was slain, and which is still known to 
the people as — the stone of the dead queen. 

Maeve, the great queen of Oonnaught, holds a distinguished 
place in Bardic Legends. When she went to battle, it is said, she 
rode in an open car, accompanied by four chariots — one before, 
another behind, and one on each side — so that the golden assion 
on her head and her royal robes should not be defiled by the dust 
of the horses' feet, or the foam of the fiery steeds ; for all the 
sovereigns of Ireland sat crowned with a diadem in battle, as 
they drove in their war-chariots, as well as in the festal and the 
public assemblies, 


In one Irish family a cuckoo always appears before a death, A 
lady who arrived on a visit at a house observed one morning a 
cuckoo perched on the window-sill, but she felt no alarm, for 
there was no sickness in the family. Next day, however, one of 
the sons was carried home dead. He had been thrown from his 
horse when hunting, and killed on the spot. 

In another family a mysterious sound is heard like the crashing 


of boards, and a rush of wind seems to pass through the house, 
yet nothing is broken or disturbed. The death of an officer in 
the Crimea was in this way announced to his family, for the news 
came immediately after the warning sound, and then they knew 
that the rush of the wind was the spirit of the dead which had 
passed by them, but without taking any visible form. 


There is a tradition concerning the Hartpole family of Shrule 
Castle in the Queen's County (called the castle on the bloody 
stream, from the sanguinary deeds of the owner) that every male 
member of the family is doomed and fated to utter three screeches 
terrible to hear when dying. As to the origin of this doom the 
story goes that Sir Richard Hartpole about 300 years ago, in the 
time of the Elizabethan wars, committed many savage acts against 
the Irish, he being an upholder of the English faction. 

One day a priest named O'More, having come to the castle on 
some friendly mission, the savage Hartpole ordered his retainers 
to seize him and hang him up in the courtyard. 

" Good God ! " exclaimed the priest. " Give me at least a 
moment to pray ! " 

" Go then," said Hartpole, " you may pray." 

The priest kneeled down apart from the crowd. But Hartpole 
grew impatient, and ordered him to rise. 

" You have prayed long enough," he said, " prepare for death." 

And when the priest heard the order for his death, and saw the 
man approach to seize him, he swayed from right to left and gave 
three fearful screams. 

" Why do you screech ? " asked the tyrant. 

"So shall you scream, and all your descendants in your last 
agony," exclaimed O'More, " as a sign of the doom upon your 
race. You have murdered my people, you are now going to take 
my life ; but I lay the curse of God on you and yours — your 
property shall pass away ; your race shall perish off the earth ; 
and by the three death screeches all men shall know that you and 
your posterity are accursed." 

The words of O'More only made the tyrant more furious, and 
the priest was hung at once in the courtyard before the eyes of 
Hartpole. But the prophecy of doom was fulfilled — the property 
perished, the castle became a ruin. The last Hartpole died miser- 
ably of want and hunger, and the whole race finally has become 



The two great festivals of the ancient Irish were Ld Baal Tinni 9 
or May Day (sacred to the Sun), and Ld Samnah, or November 
Eve (sacred to the Moon). 

Food should he left out on November Eve for the dead, who 
are then wandering about. If the food disappears, it is a sign 
that the spirits have taken it, for no mortal would dare to touch 
or eat of the food so left. 

Never turn your head to look if you fancy you hear footsteps 
behind you on that night ; for the dead are walking then, and 
their glance would kill. 

In November a distaff is placed under the head of a young man 
at night to make him dream of the girl he is destined to marry. 

If a ball of worsted is thrown into a lime-kiln and wound up till 
the end is caught by invisible hands, the person who winds it 
calls out, "Who holds the ball?" and the answer will be the 
name of the future husband or wife. But the experiment must be 
made only at midnight, and in silence and alone. 

Whitsuntide is a most unlucky time ; horses foaled then will 
grow up dangerous and kill some one. 

A child born at Whitsuntide will have an evil temper, and may 
commit a murder. 

Beware also of water at Whitsuntide, for an evil power is on 
the waves and the lakes and the rivers, and a boat may be 
swamped and men drowned unless a bride steers j then the danger 

To turn away ill-luck from a child born at that time, a grave 
must be dug and the infant laid in it for a few minutes. After 
this process the evil spell is broken, and the child is safe. 

If any one takes ill at Whitsuntide there is great danger of 
death, for the evil spirits are on the watch to carry off victims, 
and no sick person should be left alone at this time, nor in the 
dark. Light is a great safeguard, as well as fire, against malific 

In old times at Whitsuntide blood was poured out as a libation 


to the evil spirits ; and^the children and cattle were passed through 
two lines of fire. 

On May morning the Skellig rocks go out full sail to meet the 
opposite rocks, which advance half way to meet them, and then 
slowly retire like retreating ships. 

At Midsummer the fairies try to pass round the Baal fires in a 
whirlwind in order to extinguish them, but the spirits may he 
kept off by throwing fire at them. Then the young men are free 
to leap over the burning embers and to drive the cattle through 
the flames, while coals of fire must also be passed three times 
over and three times under the body of each animal. 

Foot-worship was a homage to Buddha, and it was also a Chris- 
tian ceremony to wash the feet of the saints. The Irish had many 
superstitions about foot-water, and no woman was allowed to 
wash her feet in the sacred wells though the lavation was 
permitted to men. 

If a child is fairy-struck, give it a cup of cold water in the 
name of Christ and make the sign of the cross over it. 

On St. Martin's Day when blood is spilt, whoever is signed with 
the blood is safe, for that year at least, from disease. 

For the Evil Eye, a piece cut from the garment of the evil-eyed, 
burned to tinder and ground to powder, must be given to the 
person under the baneful spell, while his forehead is anointed with 
spittle thrice. So the Greeks spat three times in the face of the 
evil-eyed to break the spell. 

Pass a red-hot turf three times over and under the body of an 
animal supposed to be fairy-struck, singeing the hair along the 
back. This drives oil the fairies. 

The Irish always went westward round a holy well, following 
the course of the sun, and creeping on their hands and knees. So 
did the ancient Persians when offering homage at the sacred 

Red-haired people were held to be evil and malicious and 
unlucky, probably because Typhon, the evil principle, was red ; 
and therefore a red heifer was sacrificed to him by the Egyptians. 

In the mystic, or snake dance, performed at the Baal festival, 
the gyrations of the dancers were always westward, in the track 


of the sun, for the dance was part of the ancient ritual of sun 



)x fHE ancient rath, or fort, or liss, generally enclosed about half an 
acre, and had two or more ramparts, formed by the heads of the 
tribe for defence. But when the race of the chieftains died out, 
then the Sidhe crowded into the forts, and there held their coun- 
cils and revels and dances ; and if a man put his ear close to the 
ground at night he could hear the sweet fairy music rising up 
from under the earth. 

The rath ever after is sacred to the fairies, and no mortal is 
allowed to cut down a tree that grows on it, or to carry away a 
stone. But dangerous above all would it be to build on a fairy 
rath. If a man attempted such a rash act, the fairies would put 
a blast on his eyes, or give him a crooked mouth ; for no human 
hand should dare to touch their ancient dancing grounds. 

It is not rigbt, the people say, to sing or whistle at night that 
old air, " The pretty girl milking her cow ; " for it is a fairy tune, 
and the fairies will not suffer a mortal to sing their music while 
they are dancing on the grass. But if a person sleeps on the rath 
the music will enter into his soul, and when he awakes he may 
sing the air he has heard in his dreams. 

In this way the bards learned their songs, and they were skilled 
musicians, and touched the harp with a master hand, so that the 
fairies often gathered round to listen, though invisible to mortal 


The Siodh-Dune, or the Mount of Peace, is also a favourite resort 
of the fairies. It is an ancient, sacred place, where the Druids in 
old time used to retire to pray, when they desired solitude ; and 
the fairies meet there every seven years to perform the act of 
lamentation and mourning for having been cast out of heaven. 

Earth, lake, and hill are peopled by these fantastic, beautiful 
gods of earth ; the wilful, capricious child-spirits of the world. 
The Irish seem to have created this strange fairy race after their 
own image, for in all things they strangely resemble the Irish 

The Sidhe passionately love beauty and luxury, and hold in 
contempt all the mean virtues of thrift and economy. Above all 


tilings they hate the close, niggard hand that gathers the last 
grain, and drains the last drop in the milk-pail, and plucks the 
trees bare of fruit, leaving nothing for the spirits who wander by 
in the moonlight. They like food and wine to be left for them 
at night, yet they are very temperate ; no one ever saw an intoxi- 
cated fairy. 

But people should not sit up too late ; for the fairies like to 
gather round the smouldering embers after the family are in bed, 
and drain the wine-cup, and drink the milk which a good house- 
wife always leaves for them, in case the fairies should come in and 
want their supper, A vessel of pure water should also be left for 
them to bathe in, if they like. And in all things the fairies are 
fond of being made much of, and flattered and attended to ; and 
the fairy blessing will come back in return to the giver for what- 
ever act of kindness he has done to the spirits of the hill and the 
cave. Some unexpected good fortune or stroke of luck will come 
upon his house or his children ; for the fairy race is not ungrateful, 
and is powerful over man both for good and evil. 

Therefore be kind to the wayfarer, for he may be a fairy prince 
in disguise, who has come to test the depth of your charity, and 
of the generous nature that can give liberally out of pure love 
and kindliness to those who are in need, and not in nope of a 

If treated well, the fairies will discover the hidden pot of gold, 
and reveal the mysteries of herbs, and give knowledge to the 
fairy women of the mystic spells that can cure disease, and save 
life, and make the lover loved. 

All they ask in return is to be left in quiet possession of the 
rath and the hill and the ancient hawthorn trees that have been 
theirs from time immemorial, and where they lead a joyous life 
with music and dance, and charming little suppers of the nectar 
of flowers, down in the crystal caves, lit by the diamonds that 
stud the rocks. 

But some small courtesies they require. Never drain your 
wine-glass at a feast, nor the poteen flask, nor the milk-pail ; and 
never rake out all the fire at night, it looks mean, and the fairies 
like a little of everything going, and to have the hearth comfort- 
able and warm when they come in to hold a council after all the 
mortal people have gone to bed. In fact, the fairies are born aris- 
tocrats, true ladies and gentlemen, and if treated with proper 
respect are never in the least malignant or ill-natured. 

All the traditions of the fairies show that they love beauty and 
splendour, grace of movement, music and pleasure ; everything, in 
fact, that is artistic, in contradistinction to violent, brutal enjoy- 
ment. Only an Aryan people, therefore, could have invented the 
Sidhe race. 



The Irish show their Aryan descent by the same characteristics 
as the Fairy race, for they also love everything that is artistic — 
the fascinations of life, beauty of form, music, poetry, song, 
splendour, and noble pleasures. Their kings in ancient times 
were elected for their personal beauty as much as for their 
chivalrous qualities. No man with a blemish or a deformity was 
allowed to reign. Then, their appreciation of intellect proved the 
value they set on the spiritual and ideal above the material and the 
brutal. The poet ranked next to the princes of the land. His 
person was sacred in battle ; he was endowed with an estate, so 
that his soul might be free from sordid cares ; and his robe of 
many colours, and the golden circlet on his brow at the festivals, 
showed his claim and right to rank next to royalty, and to sit at 
the right hand of the king. Poetry, learning, music, oratory, 
heroism, and splendour of achievement — these were the true objects 
of homage and admiration amongst the ancient Irish. 

There was nothing brutal in their ideal of life; no hideous 
images or revolting cruelties; and the beautiful and graceful 
Sidhe race, with their plaintive music and soft melancholy, and 
aspirations for a lost heaven, is the expression in a graceful and 
beautiful symbol of the instinctive tendencies of the Irish nature 
to all that is most divine in human intellect, and soft and tender 
in human emotion. 

Ireland is a land of mists and mystic shadows ; of cloud-wraiths 
on the purple mountains ; of weird silences in the lonely hills, and 
fitful skies of deepest gloom alternating with gorgeous sunset 
splendours. All this fantastic caprice of an ever-varying atmo- 
sphere stirs the imagination, and makes the Irish people strangely 
sensitive to spiritual influences. They see visions and dream 
dreams, and are haunted at all times by an ever-present sense of 
the supernatural. One can see by the form of the Irish head — a 
slender oval, prominent at the brows and high in the region of 
veneration, so different from the globular Teutonic head — that the 
people are enthusiasts, religious, fanatical ; with the instincts of 
poetry, music, oratory, and superstition far stronger in them than 
the logical and reasoning faculties. They are made for 
worshippers, poets, artists, musicians, orators ; to move the world 
by passion, not by logic. Scepticism will never take root in 
Ireland; infidelity is impossible to the people. To believe 
fanatically, trust implicitly, hope infinitely, and perhaps to 
revenge implacably — these are the unchanging and ineradicable 
characteristics of Irish nature, of Celtic nature, we may say ; for 
it has been the same throughout all history and all ages. And it 
is these passionate qualities that make the Celt the great motive 


force of the world, ever striving against limitations towards some 
vision of ideal splendour ; the restless centrifugal force of life, as 
opposed to the centipetal, which is ever seeking a calm quiescent 
rest within its appointed sphere. 

The very tendency to superstition, so marked in Irish nature, 
arises from an instinctive dislike to the narrow limitations of 
common sense. It is characterized by a passionate yearning 
towards the vague, the mystic, the invisible, and the boundless 
infinite of the realms of imagination. Therefore the Daine-Sidhe, 
the people of the fairy mansions, have an irresistible attraction 
for the Irish heart. Like them, the Irish love youth, beauty, 
splendour, lavish generosity, music and song, the feast and the 
dance. The mirth and the reckless gaiety of the national tempera- 
ment finds its true exponent in the mad pranks of the Phouka and 
the Leprehaun, the merry spirits that haunt the dells and glens, 
and look out at the wayfarer from under the dock-leaf with their 
glittering eyes. The inspiration that rises to poetry under the 
influence of excitement is expressed by the belief in the Leanan- 
Sidke, who gives power to song ; while the deep pathos of Irish 
nature finds its fullest representation in the tender, plaintive, 
spiritual music of the wail and lamentation of the Ban-Sidhe. 



There are no traces in Irish legend of animal worship, hut many 
concerning the influence of animals upon human life, and of their 
interference with human affairs. 

The peasants "believe that the domestic animals know all ahout 
ns, especially the dog and the cat. They listen to everything that 
is said ; they watch the expression of the face, and can even read 
the thoughts. The Irish say it is not safe to ask a question of a 
dog, for he may answer, and should he do so the questioner will 
surely die. 

The position of the animal race in the life scheme is certainly 
full of mystery. Gifted with extraordinary intelligence, yet 
with dumh souls vainly struggling for utterance, they seem like 
prisoned spirits in bondage, suffering the punishment, perhaps,, for 
sin in some former human life, and now waiting the completion of 
the cycle of expiation that will advance them again to the human 

The three most ancient words in the Irish language are, it is 
said, Tor, a tower ; Cu, a hound, and Bo, a cow. The latter word 
is the same as is found in the Greek Bosphorus, and in the nomen- 
clature of many places throughout Europe. 


Some very weird superstitions exist in Ireland concerning the 
howlings of dogs. If a dog is heard to howl near the house of a 
sick person, all hope of his recovery is given up, and the patient 
himself sinks into despair, knowing that his doom is sealed. But 
the Irish are not alone m holding this superstition. The Egyptians, 
Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans all looked on the howling of the 
dog as ominous. The very word howling may be traced in the 
Latin ululu, the Greek holuluzo, the Hebrew hululue, and the Irish 
uIIuIoq, In Ireland the cry raised at the funeral ceremony was 


called the Caoin, or keen, probably from %v(ov, a dog. And this 
doleful lamentation was also common to other nations of antiquity. 
The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans had their hired mourners, who, 
with dishevelled hair and mournful cadenced hymns, led on the 
melancholy parade of death. Thus the Trojan women keened oyer 
Hector, the chorus being led by the beautiful Helen herself. 

The howling of the dog was considered by these nations as the 
first note of the funeral dirge and the signal that the coming of 
death was near. 

But the origin of the superstition may be traced back to Egypt, 
where dogs and dog-faced gods were objects of worship ; probably 
because Sirius, the Dog-star, appeared precisely before the rising 
of the Nile, and thereby gave the people a mystic and supernatural 
warning to prepare for the overflow. 

The Romans held that the howling of dogs was a fatal presage 
of evil, and it is noted amongst the direful omens that preceded 
the death of Osesar. Horace also says that Oanidia by her spells 
and sorceries could bring ghosts of dogs from hell ; and Virgil 
makes the dog to howl at the approach of Hecate. 

It is remarkable that when dogs see spirits (and they are keenly 
sensitive to spirit influence) they never bark, but only howl. The 
Rabbins say that " when the Angel of Death enters a city the dogs 
do howl. But when Elias appears then the dogs rejoice and are 
merry." And Rabbi Jehuda the Just states, that once upon a time 
when the Angel of Death entered a house the dog howled and 
fled ; but being presently brought back he lay down in fear and 
trembling, and so died. 

This strange superstition concerning the howling of dogs, when, 
as is supposed, they are conscious of the approach of the Spirit of 
Death, and see him though he is shrouded and invisible to human 
eyes, may be found pervading the legends of all nations from the 
earliest period down to the present time ; for it still exists in full 
force amongst all classes, the educated, as well as the unlettered 
peasantry ; and to this day the howling of a dog where a sick 
person is lying is regarded in Ireland in all grades of society with 
pale dismay as a certain sign of approaching death. 

The # Irish may have obtained the superstition through Egypt, 
Phoenicia, or Greece, for it is the opinion of some erudite writers 
that the Irish wolf-dog (Cams gracilis Hibernicus) was descended 
from the dogs of Greece. 

It is strange and noteworthy that although the dog is so faith- 
ful to man, yet it is never mentioned in the Bible without an ex- 
pression of contempt ; and Moses in his code of laws makes the dog 
an unclean animal, probably to deter the Israelites from the 
Egyptian worship of this animal. It was the lowest term of 
offence — i( Is thy servant a dog ? " False teachers, persecutors, 
Gentiles, unholy men, and otters sunk in sin and vileness were 



called dogs ; while at the same time the strange prophetic power 
of these animals was universally acknowledged and recognized. 

The Romans sacrificed a dog at the Lupercalia in February. 
And to meet a dog with her whelps was considered in the highest 
degree unlucky. Of all living creatures the name of "dog" 
applied to any one expressed the lowest form of insult, contempt, 
and reproach. Yet, of all animals, the dog has the noblest 
qualities, the highest intelligence, and the most enduring affection 
for man. 

The Irish wolf-dog had a lithe body, a slender head, and was 
fleet as the wind. The form of the animal is produced constantly 
in Irish ornamentation, but the body always terminates in endless 
twisted convolutions. The great Fionn MaCoul had a celebrated 
dog called " Bran," who is thus described in the bardic legends : 
"A ferocious, small-headed, white -breasted, sleek- haunch ed 
hound ; having the eyes of a dragon, the claws of a wolf, the vigour 
of a lion, and the venom of a serpent." 

In the same poem Fionn himself is described in highly ornate 
bardic language, as he leads the hound by a chain of silver 
attached to a collar of gold : " A noble, handsome, fair-featured 
Fenian prince ; young, courteous, manly, puissant ; powerful in 
action; the tallest of the warriors; the strongest of the cham- 
pions ; the most beautiful of the human race." 

Bran, like his master, was gifted in a remarkable degree with 
the foreknowledge of evil, and thus he was enabled to give his 
young lord many warnings to keep him from danger. 

Once, when victory was not for the Fenian host, Bran showed 
the deepest sorrow. 

" He came to Fionn, wet and weary, and by this hand," says the 
chronicler, " his appearance was pitiful. He lay down before the 
chief, and cried bitterly and howled. 

" * 'Tis likely, my dog/ saith Fionn, ( that our heads are in great 
danger this day.'* "" 

Another time, the Fenian host having killed a huge boar, Ossian, 
the bard and prophet, ordered it to be burnt as of demon race. 
Bran, hearing this, went out readily and knowingly, and he brings 
in three trees in his paw ; no one knew from whence ; but the 
trees were put into the fire and the great pig was burnt, and the 
ashes of the beast were cast into the sea. 

The Fenian princes generally went to the hunt accompanied 
altogether by about three thousand hounds ; Bran leading, the 
wisest and fleetest of all. The chiefs formed a goodlyj army, a 
thousand knights or more — each wearing a silken shirt and a 
chotan of fine silk, a green mantle and fine purple cloak over to 
protect it ; a golden diademed helmet on the head, and a javelin 
in each man's hand. 


Once, a chief, being jealous of the splendour of the Fenian 
princes, became their bitter enemy, and set himself to curse Bran 
above all hounds in the land. 

But Fionn answered, " If thou shouldest curse Bran, my wise, 
intelligent dog, not a room east or west in thy great mansion but 
I will burn with fire." 

So Bran rested on the mountain with Fionn, his lord and 
master, and was safe from harm. 

Yet, so fate decreed, Bran finally met his death by means of a 
woman. One day a snow-white hart, with hoofs that shone like 
gold, was scented on the hill, and all the hounds pursued, Bran 
leading. Hour after hour passed by, and still the hart fled on, the 
hounds following, till one by one they all dropped off from weari- 
ness, and not one was left save Bran. Then the hart headed for 
the lake, and reaching a high cliff, she plunged from it straight 
down into the water ; the noble hound leaped in at once after her, 
and seized the hart as she rose to the surface ; but at that instant 
she changed into the form of a beautiful lady, and laying her hand 
upon the head of Bran, she drew him down beneath the water, 
and the beautiful lady and Fionn's splendid hound disappeared 
together and were seen no more. But in memory of the event the 
cliff from which he leaped is called Coegg-y-Bran ; while the lake 
and the castle beside it are called Tiernach Bran (the lordship of 
Bran) to this day. So the name and memory of Fionn's hound, 
and his wisdom and achievements are not forgotten by the people ; 
and many dogs of the chase are still called after him, for the name 
is thought to bring luck to the hunter and sportsman. But the 
Cailleach Biorar (the Hag of the Water) is held in much dread, 
for it is believed that she still lives in a cave on the hill, and is 
ready to work her evil spells whenever opportunity offers, and 
her house is shown under the cairn, also the beaten path she 
traversed to the lake. Many efforts have been made to drain the 
lake, but the Druid priestess, the Hag of the Water, always in- 
terferes, and casts some spell to prevent the completion of the 
work. The water of the lake has, it is said, the singular property 
of turning the hair a silvery white ; and the great Fionn having 
once bathed therein, he emerged a withered old man, and was 
only restored to youth by means of strong spells and incantations. 

In Cormac's Glossary there is an interesting account of how the 
first lapdog came into Ireland, for the men of Britain were under 
strict orders that no lapdog should be given to the Gael, either of 
solicitation or of free will, for gratitude or friendship. 

^ Now it happened that Oairbre* Muse went to visit a friend of 
his in Britain, who made him right welcome and offered him 
eyerything he possessed, save only his lapdog, for that was for- 


bidden by the law. Yet this beautiful lapdog was the one only 
possession that Cairbre* coveted, and he laid his plans cunningly 
to obtain it. 

There was a law at that time in Britain to this effect : t{ Every 
criminal shall be given as a forfeit for his crime to the person he 
has injured." 

Now Cairbre had a wonderful dagger, around the haft of which 
was an adornment of silver and gold. It was a precious jewel, 
and he took fat meat and rubbed it all over the haft, with much 
grease. Then he set it before the lapdog, who began to gnaw at 
the haft, and continued gnawing all night till the morning, so that 
the haft was spoiled and was no longer beautiful. 

Then on the morrow, Cairbre* made complaint that his beautiful 
dagger was destroyed, and he demanded a just recompense. 

" That is indeed fair," said his friend, " 1 shall pay a price for 
the trespass." 

" I ask no other price," said CairbrS, " than what the law of 
Britain allows me, namely, the criminal for his crime." 

So the lapdog was given to Cairbre^ and it was called ever after 
Mug-EimS, the slave of the haft, which name clung* to it because 
it passed into servitude as a forfeit for the trespass. 

Now when Cairbre* brought it back to Erin with him, all the 
kings of Ireland began to wrangle and contend for possession of 
the lapdog, and the contention at last ended in this wise — it was 
agreed that the dog should abide for a certain time in the house 
of each king. Afterwards the dog littered, and each of them had 
a pup of the litter, and from this stock descends every lapdog in 
Ireland from that time till now. 

After a long while the lapdog died, and the bare skull being 
brought to the blind poet Maer to try his power of divination, he 
at once exclaimed, through the prophetic power and vision in him, 
" Mug-Eime* ! this is indeed the head of Mug-Eim6, the slave 
of the haft, that was brought into Ireland and given over to the 
fate of a bondsman, and to the punishment of servitude as a 

The word hound entered into many combinations as a name for 
various animals. Thus the rabbit was called, " the hound of the 
brake; " the hare was the "brown hound; " the moth was called 
" the hound of fur," owing to the voracity with which it devoured 
raiment. And the otter is still called by the Irish Madradh- 
Uisgue (the dog of the water). 

The names of most creatures of the animal kingdom were pri- 
mitive, the result evidently of observation. Thus the hedgehog 
was named " the ugly little fellow." The ant was the . " slender 
one." The trout, Breac, or " the spotted," from the skin. And 
the wren was called " the Druid bird," because if any one under*- 


stood the chirrup, they would have a knowledge of coming events 
as foretold by the bird. 


Cats have been familiar to the human household from all 
antiquity, but they were probably first domesticated in Egypt, 
where, so far back as two thousand years ago, a temple was dedi- 
cated to the goddess of cats — Bubastis Pasht — represented with a 
cat's head. The Greeks had this feline pet of the house from 
Egypt, and from Greece the cat race, such as we have it now, was 
disseminated over Europe. It was a familiar element in Greek 
household [life, and if anything was broken, according to Aris- 
tophanes, the phrase went then as now, " The cat did it." But 
cats were never venerated in Greece with religious adoration as in 
Egypt, the only country that gave them Divine honour, and 
where, if a cat died, the whole family shaved off their eyebrows 
in token of mourning. 

The Irish have always looked on cats as evil and mysteriously 
connected with some demoniacal influence. On entering a house 
the usual salutation is, " God save all here, except the cat." Even 
the cake on the griddle may be blessed, but no one says, " God 
bless the cat." 

It is believed that the devil often assumes the form of these 
animals. The familiar of a witch is always a black cat ; and it is 
supposed that black cats have powers and'faeulties quite different 
from all other of the feline tribe. They are endowed with reason, 
can understand conversations, and are quite able to talk if they 
considered it advisable and judicious to join in the conversation. 
Their temperament is exceedingly unamiable, they are artful, 
malignant, and skilled in deception, and people should be very 
cautious in caressing them, for they have the venomous heart and 
the evil eye, and are ever ready to do an injury. Yet the liver of 
a black cat has the singular power to excite love when properly 
administered. If ground to powder and infused into potion, the 
recipient is fated to love passionately the person who offers it and 
has worked the charm. 

An instance of this is narrated as having happened not very 
long ago. A farmer's daughter, a pretty coquette, attracted the 
attention of the young squire of the place. But though he was 
willing to carry on a flirtation, the young gentleman had no idea 
of debasing his proud lineage by an alliance. Yet a marriage was 
exactly what the girl desired, and which she was determined to 
accomplish. So she and a friend, an accomplice, searched the 
village till they found a black cat, black as night, with only three 


white hairs on the breast. Ilim they seized, and having tied up 
the animal in a bag, they proceeded to throw him from one to the 
other over a low wall, till the poor beast was quite dead. Then 
at midnight they began their unholy work. The liver and heart 
were extracted in the name of the Evil One, and then boiled down 
until they became so dry that they could easily be reduced to a 
powder, which was kept for use when opportunity offered. This 
soon came ; the young squire arrived one evening as usual, to pay 
a visit to the pretty Nora, and began to make love to the girl 
with the ordinary amount of audacity and hypocrisy. But Nora 
had other views, so she made the tea by her little fire in a black 
teapot, for this was indispensable, and induced her lover to stay 
and partake of it with her, along with a fresh griddle cake. Then 
cunningly she infused the powder into his cup and watched him 
as he drank the tea with feverish anxiety. The result was even 
beyond her hopes. A violent and ardent passion seemed suddenly 
to have seized the young man, and he not only made earnest love to 
the pretty Nora, but offered her his hand in marriage, vowing that 
he would kill himself if she refused to become his lawful bride. 
To avoid such a catastrophe, Nora gently yielded to his request, 
and from that evening they were engaged. Daily visits followed 
from the young squire, and each time that he came Nora took care 
to repeat the charm of the love powder, so that the love was kept 
at fever heat, and finally the wedding day was fixed. 

The family of the young squire were, however, not quite con- 
tented, especially as rumours of witchcraft and devil's dealings 
were bruited about the neighbourhood. And on the very eve of 
the marriage, just as the young man was pouring forth his vows 
of eternal love to the bride expectant, the door was burst open, and 
a body of men entered, headed by the nearest relations of the 
squire, who proceeded at once to belabour the young bridegroom 
with hazel sticks in the most vigorous manner. In vain the bride 
tried to interpose. She only drew the blows on herself, and 
finally the young man was carried away half stunned, lifted into 
the carriage and driven straight home, where he was locked up in 
his own room, and not allowed to hold any communication with 
the bride elect. 

The daily doses of the powder having thus ceased, he began to 
recover from the love madness, and finally the fever passed away. 
And he looked back with wonder and horror on the fatal step he 
had so nearly taken. Now he saw there was really witchcraft in 
it, which the power of the hazel twigs had completely broken. 
And the accomplice having confessed the sorcery practised on 
him by Nora and herself, he hated the girl henceforth as much 
as he had once loved her. 

And after a little he went away on foreign travel, and remained 
abroad for three years. When he returned, he found that Nora 


had degenerated into a withered little witch-faced creature, who 
was shunned by every one, and jeered at for the failure of her 
wicked spells, which had all come to nothing, though she had the 
Evil One himself to aid her ; for such is the fate of all who deal 
in sorcery and devil's magic, especially with the help of Satan's 
chief instrument of witchcraft — the black cat. 

But there is a certain herb of more power even than the cat's 
liver to produce love. Though what this herb is, only the adept 
knows and can reveal. The influence it exercises lasts, it is said, 
for twenty-one years, and then ceases and cannot be renewed. 

A gentleman, now living, once ate of this herb, which was 
given to him by his wife's serving-maid, and in consequence he 
was fated to love the girl for the specified time. Not being then 
able to endure his wife's presence, he sent her away from the 
house, and devoted himself exclusively to the servant. Nineteen 
years have now passed by, and the poor lady is still waiting 
patiently to the end of the twenty-one years, believing that the 
witch-spell will then cease, and that her husband's love will be 
hers once more. For already he has been inquiring after her and 
his children, and has been heard lamenting the madness that 
forced him to drive them from the house for the sake of the 
menial, who usurped his wife's place by means of some wicked 
sorcery which he had no power to resist. 


A most important personage in feline history is the King of the 
Cats. He may be in your house a common looking fellow enough, 
with no distinguishing" mark of exalted rank about him, so that it 
is very difficult to verify his genuine claims to royalty. Therefore 
the best way is to cut off a tiny little bit of his ear. If he is really 
the royal personage, he will immediately speak out and declare 
who he is *, and perhaps, at the same time, tell you some very dis- 
agreeable truths about yourself, not at all pleasant to have dis- 
cussed by the house cat. 

A man once, in a fit of passion, cut off the head of the domestic 
pussy, and threw it on the fire. On which the head exclaimed, in 
a fierce voice, " Go tell your wife that you have cut off the head 
of the King of the Cats; but wait! I shall come back and be 
avenged for this insult," and the eyes of the cat glared at him 
horribly from the fire. 

And so it happened ; for that day year, while the master of the 
house was playing with a pet kitten, it suddenly flew at his throat 
and bit him so severely that he died soon after* 


^ A story is current also, that one night an old woman was sit- 
ting" up very late spinning, when a knocking came to the door. 
" Who is there ? " she asked. No answer; but still the knocking 
went on. "Who is there?" she asked a second time. No 
answer; and the knocking continued. "Who is there?" she 
asked the third time, in a very angry passion. 

Then there came a small voice — " Ah, Judy, agrah, let me in, 
for I am cold and hungry ; open the door, Judy, agrah, and let 
me sit by the fire, for the night is cold out here. Judy, agrah, 
let me in, let me in ! " 

The heart of Judy was touched, for she thought it was some 
small child that had lost its way, and she rose up from her spin- 
ning, and went and opened the door — when in walked a large 
black cat with a white breast, and two white kittens after her. 

They all made over to the fire and began to warm and dry 
themselves, purring all the time very loudly; but Judy said 
never a word, only went on spinning. 

Then the black cat spoke at last — <( Judy, agrah, don't stay up 
so late again, for the fairies wanted to hold a council here to- 
night, and to have some supper, but you have prevented them ; 
so they were very angry and determined to kill you, and only for 
myself and my two daughters here you would be dead by this 
time. So take my advice, don't interfere with the fairy hours 
again, for the night is theirs, and they hate to look on the face of 
a mortal when they are out for pleasure or business. So I ran on 
to tell you, and now give me a drink of milk, for I must be off." 

And after the milk was finished tne cat stood up, and called her 
daughters to come away. 

" Good-night, Judy, agrah," she said. " You have been very 
civil to me, and I'll not forget it to you. Good-night, good- 

With that the black cat and the two kittens whisked up the 
chimney ; but Judy looking down saw something glittering on the 
hearth, and taking it up she found it was a piece of silver, more 
than she ever could make in a month by her spinning, and she 
was glad in her heart, and never again sat up so late to interfere 
with the fairy hours, but the black cat and her daughters came no 
more again to the house. 


The cat of the foregoing legend had evidently charming man- 
ners, and was well intentioned ; but there are other cats of evil 
and wicked ways, that are, in fact, demons or witches, who assume 
the cat-form, in order to get easy entrance to a house, and spy 
over everything. 


There was a woman in Connemara, the wife of a fisherman, 
and as he always had very good luck, she had plenty of fish at all 
times stored away in the house ready for market. But to her 
great annoyance she found that a great cat used to come in at 
night and devour all the best and finest fish. So she kept a big 
stick by her and determined to watch. 

One day, as she and a woman were spinning together, the house 
suddenly became quite dark ; and the door was burst open as if 
by the blast of the tempest, when in walked a huge black cat, 
who went straight up to the fire, then turned round and growled 
at them. 

" Why, surely this is the devil ! " said a young girl, who was 
by, sorting the fish. 

" I'll teach you how to call me names," said the cat ; and, 
jumping at her, he scratched her arm till the blood came. " There 
now," he said, " you will be more civil another time when a 
gentleman comes to see you." And with that he walked over to 
the door and shut it close to prevent any of them going out, for 
the poor young girl, while crying loudly from fright and pain, 
had made a desperate rush to get away. 

Just then a man was going by, and hearing the cries he pushed 
open the door and tried to get in, but the cat stood on the thresh- 
old and would let no one pass. On this, the man attacked him 
with his stick, and gave him a sound blow ; the cat, however, 
was more than his match in the fight, for it flew at him and tore 
his face and hands so badly that the man at last took to his heels 
and ran away as fast as he could. 

" Now it*S time for my dinner," said the cat, going up to 
examine the fish that was laid out on the tables. " I hope the 
fish is good to-day. Now don't disturb me, nor make a fuss ; I 
can help myself." "With that he jumped up and began to devour 
all the best fish, while he growled at the woman. 

" Away, out of this, you wicked beast!" she cried, giving it a 
blow with the tongs that would have broken its back, only it was 
a devil ; " out of this ! No fish shall you have to-day." 

But the cat only grinned at her, and went on tearing and spoil- 
ing and devouring the fish, evidently not a bit the worse for the 
blow. On this, both the women attacked it with sticks, and 
struck hard blows enough to kill it, on which the cat glared at 
them, and spit fire ; then making a leap, it tore their hands and 
arms till the blood came, and the frightened women rushed 
shrieking from the house. 

But presently the mistress returned, carrying with her a bottle 
of holy water ; and looking in, she saw the cat still devouring the 
fish, and not minding. So she crept over quietly and threw the 
holy water on it without a word. No sooner was this done than 
a dense black smoke filled the place, through which nothing was 


seen but the two red eyes of the cat, burning- like coals of fire. 
Then the smoke gradually cleared away, and she saw the body of 
the creature burning slowly till it became shrivelled and black 
like a cinder, and finally disappeared. Arioi from that time the 
fish remained untouched and safe from harm, for the power of the 
Evil One was broken, and the demon cat was seen no more. 

Oats are very revengeful, and one should be very careful not to 
offend them. A lady was in the habit of feeding the cat from 
her own table at dinner, and no doubt giving it choice morsels ; 
but one day there was a dinner party, and pussy was quite for- 
gotten. So she sulked and plotted revenge ; and that night, after 
the lady was in bed, the cat, who had hid herself in the room, 
sprang at the throat of her friend and mistress, and bit her so 
severely that in a week the lady died of virulent blood poisoning. 

Yet it is singular that the blood of the black cat is esteemed of 
wonderful power when mixed with herbs, for charms ; and also 
of great efficacy in potions for the cure of disease ; but three 
drops of the blood are sufficient, and it is generally obtained by 
nipping off a small piece of the tail. 


The observation of cats is very remarkable, and also their 
intense curiosity. They examine everything in a house, and in a 
short time know all about it as well as the owner. They are 
never deceived by stuffed birds, or any such weak human de- 
lusions. They fathom it all at one glance, and then turn away 
with apathetic indifference, as if saying, in cat language — " We 
know all about it." 

A favourite cat in a gentleman's house was rather fond of 
nocturnal rambles and late hours, perhaps copying his master, 
but no matter what his engagements were the cat always returned 
regularly next morning precisely at nine o'clock, which was the 
breakfast hour, and rang the house bell at the hall door. This 
fact was stated to me on undoubted authority; and, in truth, 
there is nothing too wonderful to believe about the intellect of 
cats ; no matter what strange things may be narrated of them, 
nothing should be held improbable or impossible to their in- 

But cats are decidedly malific; they are selfish, revengeful, 
treacherous, cunning, and generally dangerous. The evil spirit 
in them is easily arou§ed. It is an Irish superstition that if you 


are going a journey, and meet a cat, you should turn back. But 
the cat must meet you on the road, not simply be in the house ; 
and it must look you full in the face. Then cross yourself and 
turn back ; for a witch or a devil is in your path. 

It is believed also that if a black cat is killed and a bean placed 
in the heart, and the animal afterwards buried, the beans that 
grow from that seed will confer extraordinary power ; for if a 
man places one in his mouth, he will become invisible, and can go 
anywnere he likes without being seen. 

Cats have truly something awful in them. According to the 
popular belief they know everything that is said, and can tako 
various shapes through their demoniac power. A cat once lived 
in a farmer's family for many years, and understood both Irish 
and English perfectly. ^ Then the family grew afraid of it, for 
they said it would certainly talk some day. So the farmer put it 
into a bag, determined to get rid of it on the mountains. But on 
the way he met a pack of hounds, and the dogs smelt at the bag 
and dragged it open, on which the cat jumped out ; but the 
hounds were on it in a moment, and tore the poor animal to 
pieces. However, before her death she had time to say to the 
farmer in very good Irish — " It is well for you that I must die to- 
day, for had I lived I meant to have killed you this very night." 
These were the last dying words of the cat uttered in her death 
agonies, before the face of many credible witnesses, so there can 
be no doubt on the matter. 

pats were special objects of mysterious dread to the ancient 
Irish. They believed that many of them were men and women 
metamorphosed into cats by demoniacal power. Cats also were 
the guardians of hidden treasure, and had often great battles 
among themselves on account of the hidden gold ; when a demon, 
in the shape of the chief cat, led on the opposing forces on each 
side, and compelled all the cats in the district to take part in the 

The Druidical or royal cat, the chief monarch of all the cats in 
Ireland, was endowed with human speech and faculties, and 
possessed great and singular privileges. "A slender black cat, 
wearing a chain of silver," so it is described. 

There is a legend that a beautiful princess, a king's daughter, 
having gone down to bathe one day, was there enchanted by her 
wicked stepmother, who hated her ; and by the spell of the en- 
chantment she was doomed to be one year a cat, another a swan, 
and another an otter; but with the privilege of assuming her 
natural shape one day in each year, under certain conditions. It 
is to be regretted that we have no account as to the mode in 
which the Princess Faithlean exercised her brief enjoyment of 
human rights; for the narration would have had a mystic and 
deep psychological interest if the fair young victim had only 


retained during all her transformations the memory of each of 
her successive incarnations as the cat, the swan, and the otter. 

This abnormal mode of existence, however, was not unusual 
amongst the Irish. Fionn himself had a wife who for seven 
years was alive by day and dead by night ; and the Irish Princess 
Zieba, being enchanted by her wicked stepfather, the king of 
Munster, died and came to life again each alternate year. 

All nations seem to have appreciated the mysterious and almost 
human qualities of cat nature ; the profound cunning, the imper- 
tinent indifference, the intense selfishness, yet capable of the most 
hypocritical flatteries when some point has to be gained. Their 
traits are not merely the product of brute instinct with unvarying 
action and results, but the manifestation of a calculating intellect, 
akin to the human. Then their grace and flexile beauty make 
them very attractive ; while the motherly virtues of the matron 
cat are singularly interesting as a study of order, education, and 
training for the wilful little kitten, quite on the human lines of 
salutary discipline. Humboldt declared that he could spend a 
whole day with immense profit and advantage to himself as a 
philosopher, by merely watching a cat with her kittens, the pro- 
found wisdom of the mother and the incomparable grace of the 
children. For cats are thoroughly well-bred, born aristocrats; 
never abrupt, fussy, or obtrusive like the dog, but gentle, grave, 
and dignified in manner. Cats never run, they glide softly, and 
always with perfect and beautiful curves of motion; and they 
express their affection, not violently, like the dog, but with the 
most graceful, caressing movements of the head. 

Their intellect also is very remarkable, they easily acquire the 
meaning of certain words, and have a singular and exact know- 
ledge of hours. 

Mr. St. George Mivart, in his interesting and exhaustive work 
on cats, has devoted a whole chapter to the psychology of the cat ; 
in which he shows that the race possesses evident mental qualities 
and peculiar intelligence, with also a decided and significant 
language of sounds and gestures to express the emotions of the cat 
mind. The highly reflective and observant nature of the cat is 
also admirably described in that very clever novel called "The 
Poison Tree," recently translated from the Bengalee. There the 
house-cat is drawn with the most lifelike touches, as she sits 
watching the noble and beautiful lady at work on her embroidery, 
while her little child is playing beside her with all the pretty toys 
scattered over the carpet : " The cat's disposition was grave : her 
face indicated much wisdom, and a heart devoid of fickleness. She 
evidently was thinking — 'the condition of human creatures is 
frightful ; their minds are ever given to sewing of canvas, playing 
with dolls, or some such silly employment; their thoughts are 
not turned to good works, such as providing suitable food for cats. 


What will become of them hereafter ! ' Then, seeing no means 
by which the disposition of mankind could be improved, the cat, 
heaving a sigh, slowly departs," 


Thebe is an amusing legend preserved in Ossianic tradition of 
the encounter between Seanchan, the celebrated chief poet of 
Ireland, and the King of all the Oats, who dwelt in a cave near 

In ancient Ireland the men of learning were esteemed beyond 
all other classes ; all the great ollaves and professors and poets 
held the very highest social position, and took precedence of the 
nobles, and ranked next to royalty. The leading men amongst 
them lived luxuriously in the great Bardic House ; and when they 
went abroad through the country they travelled with a train of 
minor bards, fifty or more, and were entertained free of cost by 
the kings and chiefs, who considered themselves highly honoured 
by the presence of so distinguished a company at their court. If 
the receptions were splendid and costly, the praise of the enter- 
tainer was chanted by all the poets at the feast ; but if any slight 
were offered, then the Ard-File poured forth his stinging satire in 
such bitter odes, that many declared they would sooner die than 
incur the anger of the poets or be made the subject of their 
scathing satire. 

All the learned men and professors, the ollaves of music, poetry, 
oratory, and of the arts and sciences generally, formed a great 
Bardic Association, who elected their own president, with the 
title of Chief Poet of all Ireland, and they also elected chief poets 
for each of the provinces. Learned women, likewise, and 
poetesses, were included in the Bardic Association, with distinct 
and recognized privileges, both as to revenue and costly apparel. 
Legal enactments even were made respecting the number of 
colours allowed to be worn in their mantles — the poet being 
allowed six colours, and the poetess five in her robe and mantle ; 
the number of colours being a distinct recognition and visible 
sign of rank, and therefore very highly esteemed. But, in time, 
as a consequence of their many and great privileges, the pride and 
insolence of the learned class, the ollamhs, poets, and poetesses, 
became so insufferable, that even the kings trembled before them. 
This is shown in the Ossianic tale, from which we may gather 
that Seanchan the Bard, when entertained at the court of King 
Quaire, grew jealous of the attention paid to the nobles while he 


was present. So he sulked at the festival, and made himself 
eminently disagreeable, as will be seen by the following legend : — 

When Seanchan, the renowned Bard, was made Ard-Fil6, or 
Chief Poet of Ireland, Guaire, the king of Oonnaught, to do him 
honour, made a great feast for him and the whole Bardic Associ- 
ation. And all the professors went to the king's house, the great 
ollaves of poetry and history and music, and of the arts and 
sciences; and the learned, aged females, Grug and Grag and 
Grangait: and all the chief poets and poetesses of Ireland, an 
amazing number. But Guaire the king entertained them all 
splendidly, so that the ancient pathway to his palace is still 
called « The Road of the Dishes." 

And each day he asked, " How fares it with my noble guests ? " 
But they were all discontented, and wanted things he could not 
get for them. So he was very sorrowful, and prayed to God to 
be delivered from " the learned men and women, a vexatious 

Still the feast went on for three days and three nights. And 
they drank and made merry. And the whole Bardic Association 
entertained the nobles with the choicest music and professional 

But Seanchan sulked and would neither eat nor drink, for he 
was jealous of the nobles of Oonnaught. And when he saw how 
much they consumed of the best meats and wine, he declared he 
would taste no food till they and their servants were all sent away 
out of the house. 

And when Guaire asked him again, "How fares my noble 
guest, and this great and excellent people ? " Seanchan answered, 
" I have never had worse days, nor worse nights, nor worse dinners 
in my life." And he ate nothing for three whole days. 

Then the king was sorely grieved that the whole Bardic Associ- 
ation should be feasting and drinking while Seanchan, the chief 
poet of Erin, was fasting and weak. So he sent his favourite 
serving-man, a person of mild manners and cleanliness, to offer 
special dishes to the bard. 

" Take them away," said Seanchan ; "I'll have none of them." 

il And why, oh, Royal Bard ? " asked the servitor. 

(t Because thou art an uncomely youth," answered Seanchan, 
i( Thy grandfather was chip-nailed — I have seen him j I shall eat 
no food from thy hands." 

Then the king called a beautiful maiden to him, his foster 
daughter, and said, " Lady, bring thou this wheaten cake and this 
dish of salmon to the illustrious poet, and serve him thyself." So 
the maiden went. 

But when Seanchan saw her he asked : " Who sent thee hither, 
and why hast thou brought me food ? " 

i( My lord the king sent me, oh ; Royal Bard," ehe answered f 


" because I am comely to look upon, and he bade me serve thee 
with food myself." 

" Take it away" said Seanchan, "thou art an unseemly girl, I 
know of none more ugly. I have seen thy grandmother ; she sat 
on a wall one day and pointed out the way with her hand to some 
travelling lepers. How could I touch thy food ? " So the maiden 
went away in sorrow. 

And then Guaire the king was indeed angry, and he exclaimed, 
u My malediction on the mouth that uttered that ! May the kiss 
of a leper be on Seanehan's lips before he dies ! " 

Now there was a young serving-girl there, and she said ^ to 
Seanchan, " There is a hen's egg in the place, my lord, may I bring 
it to thee, oh, Chief Bard ? " 

" It will suffice," said Seanchan ; " bring it that I may eat." 

But when she went to look for it, behold the egg was gone. 

" Thou hast eaten it," said the bard, in wrath. 

" Not so, my lord," she answered ; " but the mice, the nimble 
race, have carried it away." 

" Then I will satirize them in a poem," said Seanchan ; apd 
forthwith he chanted so bitter a satire against them that ten mice 
fell dead at once in his presence. 

"'Tis well," said Seanchan; "but the cat is the one most to 
blame, for it was her duty to suppress the mice. Therefore I shall 
satirize the tribe of the cats, and their chief lord, Irusan, son of 
Arusan. For I know where he lives with his wife Spit-fire, and 
his daughter Sharp-tooth, with her brothers, the Purrer and the 
Growler. But I shall begin with Irusan himself, for he is king, 
and answerable for all the cats." 

And he said — " Irusan, monster of claws, who strikes at the 
mouse, but lets it go ; weakest of cats. The otter did well who 
bit off the tips of thy progenitor's ears, so that every cat since is 
jagged-eared. Let thy tail hang down ; it is right, for the mouse 
jeers at thee." 

Now Irusan heard these words in his cave, and he said to his 
daughter, Sharp-tooth : " Seanchan has satirized me, but I will be 

" Nay, father," she said, " bring him here alive, that we may all 
take our revenge." 

" I shall go then and bring him," said Irusan ; " so send thy 
brothers after me." 

Now when it was told to Seanchan that the King of the Cats 
was on his way to come and kill him, he was timorous, and be- 
sought Guaire and all the nobles to stand by and protect him. 
And before long a vibrating, impressive, impetuous sound was 
heard, like a raging tempest of fire in full blaze. And when the 
cat appeared he seemed to them of the size of a bullock ; and this 
was his appearance — rapacious, panting, jagged-eared, snub-nosed, 



sharp-toothed, nimble, angry, vindictive, glare-eyed, terrible, 
sharp-clawed. Such was his similitude. But he passed on 
amongst them, not minding till he came to Seanchan ; and him 
he seized by the arm and jerked him up on his back, and made off 
the way he came before any one could touch him ; for he had no 
other object in view but to get hold of the poet. 

Now Seanchan, being in evil plight, had recourse to flattery. 
" Oh, Irusan," he exclaimed, u how truly splendid thou art, such 
running, such leaps, such strength, and such agility ! But what 
evil have I done, oh, Irusan, son of Arusan ? spare me,I entreat. 
I invoke the saints between thee and me, oh, great King of the 

But not a bit did the cat let go his hold for all this fine talk, 
but went straight on to Clonmacnoise where there was a forge j 
and St. Kieran happened to be there standing at the door. 

" What ! " exclaimed the saint ; " is that the Chief Bard of Erin 
on the back of a cat ? Has Guaire's hospitality ended in this ? " 
And he ran for a red-hot bar of iron that was in the furnace, and 
struck the cat on the side with it, so that the iron passed through 
him, and he fell down lifeless. 

" Now my curse on the hand that gave that blow ! " said the 
bard, when he got upon his feet. 

" And wherefore ? " asked St. Kieran. 

" Because," answered Seanchan, " I would rather Irusan had 
killed me, and eaten me every bit, that so I might bring disgrace 
on Guaire for the bad food he gave me ; for it was all owing to 
his wretched dinners that I got into this plight." 

And when all the other kings heard of Seanchan's misfortunes, 
they sent to beg he would visit their courts. But he would have 
neither kiss nor welcome from them, and went on his way to the 
bardic mansion, where the best of good living was always to be 
had. And ever after the kings were afraid to offend Seanchan. 

So as long as he lived he had the chief place at the feast, and 
all the nobles there were made to sit below him, and Seanchan 
was content. And in time he and Guaire were reconciled ; and 
Seanchan and all the ollamhs, and the whole Bardic Association, 
were feasted by the king for thirty days in noble style, and had 
the choicest of viands and the best of French wines to drink, 
served in goblets of silver. And in return for his splendid hospi- 
tality the Bardic Association decreed, unanimously, a vote oi 
thanks to the king. And they praised him in poems as " Guaire 
the Generous," by which name he was ever after known in history, 
forthe words of the poet are immortal, 



The Irish kings in ancient times kept up splendid hospitality at 
their respective courts, and never sat down to an entertainment, 
it was said, without a hundred nobles at least being present. Next 
in rank and superb living to the royal race came the learned men, 
the ollamhs and poets j they were placed next the king, and above 
the nobles at the festivals, and very gorgeous was the appearance 
of the Ard-File* on these occasions, in his white robes clasped 
with golden brooches, and a circlet of gold upon his head ; while 
by his side lay the golden harp, which he seized when the poetic 
frenzy came upon him, and swept the chords to songs of love, or 
in praise of immortal heroes. The queen alone had the privilege 
to ask the poet to recite at the royal banquets, and while he de- 
claimed, no man dared to interrupt him by a single word. 

A train of fifty minor bards always attended the chief poet, and 
they were all entertained free of cost wherever they visited, 
throughout Ireland, while the Ard-File* was borne on men's 
shoulders to the palace of the king, and there presented with a 
rich robe, a chain, and a girdle of gold. Of one bard, it is re- 
corded that the king gave him, in addition, his horse and armour, 
fifty rings to his hand, one thousand ounces of pure gold, and his 

The game of chess is frequently referred to in the old bardic 
tales ; and chess seems to have been a favourite pastime with the 
Irish from the most remote antiquity. The pieces must have been 
of great size, for it is narrated that the great Ouchullen killed 
a messenger who had told him a lie, by merely flinging a chessman 
at him, which pierced his brain. The royal chess-board was very 
costly and richly decorated. One is described in a manuscript of 
the twelfth century: "It was a board of silver and pure gold, 
and every angle was illuminated with precious stones. And there 
was a man-bag of woven brass wire." But the ancestors of the 
same king had in their hall a chess-board with the pieces formed 
of the bones of their hereditary enemies. 

The dress of the bards added to their splendour, for the Brehon 
laws enacted that the value of the robes of the chief poet should 
be five milch cows, and that of the poetess three cows; the 
queen's robes being of the value of seven cows, including a diadem 
and golden veil, and a robe of scarlet silk, embroidered in divers 
colours. The scions of the royal house had also the right to seven 
colours in their mantle ; while the poet was allowed six, and the 
poetess &vq — the number of colours being a sign of dignity and 

Learning was always highly esteemed in Ireland, and in ancient 
Erin the literati ranked next to the kings, 



The great and wise OUamh-Fodla, king of Ireland in Druidic 
times, built and endowed a college at Tara, near the royal palace, 
which was called Mur-Ollamh, " the Wall of the Learned." All 
the arts and sciences were represented there by eminent pro- 
fessors, the great ollaves of music, history, poetry, and oratory ; 
and they lived and feasted together, and formed the great Bardie 
Association, ruled over by their own president, styled the Ard- 
Fil6, or chief poet of Ireland, from Filidecht (philosophy or the 
highest wisdom) ; for the poets, above all men, were required to 
be pure and free from all sin that could be a reproach to learning. 
From them was demanded — 

"Purity of hand, 
Purity of mouth, 
Purity of learning, 
Purity of marriage ; " 

and any ollamh that did not preserve these four purities lost half 
his income and his dignity, the poet being esteemed not only the 
highest of all men for his learning and intellect, but also as being 
the true revealer of the supreme wisdom. 

Music was sedulously taught and cultivated at the college 
of the ollamhs ; for all the ancient life of Ireland moved to 

The Brehons seated on a hill intoned the laws to the listening 
people ; the Senachies chanted the genealogies of the kings ; and 
the Poets recited the deeds of the heroes, or sang to their gold 
harps those exquisite airs that still enchant the world, and which 
have been wafted down along the centuries, an echo, according to 
tradition, of the soft, pathetic, fairy music, that haunted the hills 
and glens of ancient Ireland. 

The chief poet was required to know by heart four hundred 
poems, and the minor bards two hundred. And they were bound 
to recite any noem called for by the kings 'at the festivals. On one 
occasion a recitation was demanded of the legend of the Taine~bo- 
Cuailne, or The Great Cattle Raid, of which Maeve, queen of Con- 
naught, was the heroine, but none of the bards knew it. This was 
felt to be a great disgrace, and Seanchan and the bards set forth 
to traverse Ireland in search of the story of the Taine, under 
Geasa, or a solemn oath, not to sleep twice in the same place till 
it was found. 

At length it was revealed to them that only the dead Fergus- 
Hoy knew the poem, and forthwith they proceeded to his grave, 
and fasted and prayed for three days, while they invoked him to 
appear. And on their invocation Fergus-Roy uprose in awful 
majesty, and stood in his grave clothes before them, and recited 
the Taine from beginning to end to the circle of listening bards. 
Then, having finished, he descended again into the grave, and the 
earth closed over him, 


During this expedition, Guaire the Generous took charge of all 
the wives and the poetesses of the Bardic Association, so as they 
should not trouble the bards while on their wanderings in search 
of the ballad of the Taine. Yet they do not seem to have been 
great feeders, these learned ladies ; for it is related of one of 
them, Brigit the poetess, that although she ^ only ate one 
hen's egg at a meal, yet she was called "Brigit of the great 

It was on their return from the search for the Taine that the 
bards decreed a vote of thanks to Guaire the king. 

In order to keep up the dignity of the great bardic clan, an in- 
come was paid by the State to each of the professors and poets 
according to his eminence ; that of the chief poet being estimated 
by antiquarians at about five thousand a year of our money, for the 
lofty and learned Bardic Association disdained commerce and toil. 
The Fileas lived only on inspiration and the hospitality of their 
royal and noble patrons, which they amply repaid by laudatory odes 
and sonnets. But, if due homage were denied them, they denounced 
the ungenerous and niggard defaulter in the most scathing and 
bitter satires. Of one chief it is recorded that he absolutely went 
mad and died in consequence of the malignant poems that were 
made on him by a clever satirical bard. 

At last the Brehons found it necessary to take cognizance 
of this cruel and terrible implement of social torture, and enact- 
ments were framed against it, with strict regulations re- 
garding the quality and justice of the satires poured out 
by the poets on those who had the courage to resist their 
exactions and resent their insolence. Finally, however, the 
ollamhs, poets, and poetesses became so intolerable that the reign- 
ing king of Ireland about the seventh century made a great effort 
to extirpate the whole bardic race, but failed ; they were too 
strong for him, though he succeeded in, at least, materially 
abridging their privileges, lessening their revenues, and reducing 
their numbers; and though they still continued to exist as 
the Bardic Association, yet they never afterwards regained the 
power and dignity which they once held in the land, before their 
pride and insolent contempt of all classes who were not numbered 
amongst the ollamhs and fileas, had aroused such violent ani- 
mosity. The Brehon laws also decreed, as to the distraint of 
a poet, that his horsewhip be taken from him, " as a warning that 
he is not to make use of it until he renders justice." Perhaps by 
the horsewhip was meant the wand or staff which the poets carried, 
made of wood, on which it is conjectured they may have inscribed 
their verses in the Ogham character. 

The Brehons seem to have made the most minute regulations 
as to the life of the people, even concerning the domestic cats 
In the tSench&s Mqt (The Great Antiquity) it is enacted that the 


cat is exempt from liability for eating the food which he finds in 
the kitchen, "owing to negligence in taking care of it." But 
if it were taken from the security of a vessel, then the cat is 
in fault, and he may safely he killed. The cat, also, is exempt 
from liability for injuring an idler in catching mice while 
mousing ; but half-fines are due from him for the profitable 
worker he may injure, and the excitement of his mousing takes 
the other half. For the distraint of a dog, a stick was placed 
over his trough in order that he be not fed. And there was 
a distress of two days for a black and white cat if descended from 
the great champion, which was taken from the ship of Breasal 
Breac, in which were white- breasted black cats ; the same for the 
lapdog of a queen. 


While on the subject of cats, the curious and interesting legend 
of " King Arthur's Fight with the Great Oat " should not be passed 
over ; for though not exactly Irish, yet it is at least Celtic, and be- 
longs by affinity to our ancient race. It is taken from a prose 
romance of the fifteenth century, entitled, " Merlin ; or, The Early 
Life of King Arthur/' recently edited, from the unique Cambridge 
Manuscript, by Mr. Wheatly. 

Merlin told the king that the people beyond the Lake of 
Lausanne greatly desired his help, " for there repaireth a devil 
that destroy eth the country. It is a cat so great and ugly 
that it is horrible to look on." For one time a fisher came 
to the lake with his nets, and he promised to give our Lord 
the first fish he took. It was a fish worth thirty shillings ; and 
when he saw it so fair and great, he said to himself softly, 
" God shall not have this ; out I will surely give Him the 
next." Now, the next was still better, and he said, " Our Lord 
may wait yet awhile ; but the third shall be His without doubt." 
So he cast his net, but drew out only a little kitten, as black 
as any coal. 

And when the fisher saw it he said he had need of it at home 
for rats and mice ; and he nourished it and kept it in his house 
till it strangled him and his wife and children. Then the cat fled 
to a high mountain and destroyed and slew all that came in his 
way, and was great and terrible to behold. 

When the king heard this he made ready and rode to the 
Lac de Lausanne and found the country desolate and void of 
people, for neither man nor woman would inhabit the place for 
fear of the cat. 

And the king was lodged a mile from the mountain, with Sir 


Gawvain and Merlin and others. And they clomb the mountain, 
Merlin leading the way. And when they were come up, Merlin 
said to the king, "Sir, in that rock liveth the cat;" and he 
showed him a great cave, large and deep, in the mountain. 

" And how shall the cat come out ? " said the king. 

tf That shall ye see hastily," quoth Merlin ; " but look you, be 
ready to defend, for anon he will assail you." 

" Then draw ye all back," said the king, " for I will prove his 

And when they withdrew, Merlin whistled loud, and the cat 
leaped out of the cave, thinking it was some wild beast, for 
he was hungry and fasting ; and he ran boldly to the king, who 
was ready with his spear, and thought to smite him through the 
body. But the fiend seized the spear in his mouth and broke it 
in twain. 

Then the king drew his sword, holding his shield also before 
him. And as the cat leaped at his throat, he struck him so 
fiercely that the creature fell to the ground ; but soon was up 
again, and ran at the king so hard that his claws gripped through 
the hauberk to the flesh, and the red blood followed the claws. 

Now the king was nigh falling to earth ; but when he saw the red 
blood he was wonder-wrath, and with his sword in his right hand 
and his shield at his breast, he ran at the cat vigorously, who sat 
licking his claws, all wet with blood. But when he saw the king 
coming towards him, he leapt up to seize him by the throat, as 
before, and stuck his fore-feet so firmly in the shield that they 
stayed there ; and the king smote him on the legs, so that he cut 
them off to the knees, and the cat fell to the ground. 

Then the king ran at him with his sword ; but the cat stood on 
his hind-legs and grinned with his teeth, and coveted tbe throat of 
the king, and the king tried to smite him on the head % but the cat 
strained his hinder feet and leaped at the king's breast, and fixed 
his teeth in the flesh, so that the blood streamed down from breast 
and shoulder. 

Then the king struck him fiercely on the body, and the cat fell 
head downwards, but the feet stayed fixed in the hauberk. And 
the king smote them asunder, on which the cat fell to the ground, 
where she howled and brayed so loudly that it was heard through 
all the host, and she began to creep towards the cave ; but the 
king stood between her and the cave, and when she tried to catch 
him with her teeth he struck her dead. 

Then Merlin and the others ran to him and asked how it was 
with him. 

(i Well, blessed be our Lord ! " said the king, " for I have slain 
this devil ; but, verily, I never had such doubt of myself, not even 
when I slew the giant on the mountain ; therefore I thank the 


(This was the great giant of St. Michael's Mount, who supped 
all the season on seven knave children chopped in a charger of 
white silver, with powder of precious spices, and goblets full 
plenteous of Portugal wine.) 

" Sir/ 7 said the barons, " ye have great cause for thankfulness." 

Then they looked on the feet that were left in the shield and in 
the hauberk, and said, "Such feet were never seen before !" And 
they took the shield and showed it to the host with great joy. 

So the king let the shield be with the cat's feet ; but the other 
feet he had laid in a coffin to be kept. And the mountain was 
called from that day, " The Mountain of the Cat," and the name 
will never be changed while the world endureth. 


The most singular legends of Ireland relate to bulls and cows, 
and there are hundreds of places all commencing with the word Bo 
(one of the most ancient words in the Irish language), which 
recall some mystic or mythical story of a cow, especially of a 
white heifer, which animal seems to have been an object of the 
greatest veneration from all antiquity. 

In old times there arose one day a maiden from the sea, a 
beautiful Berooch, or mermaid, and all the people on the Western 
Coast of Erin gathered round her and wondered at her beauty. 
And the great chief of the land carried her home to his house, 
where she was treated like a queen. 

And she was very gentle and wise, and after some time she 
acquired the language, and could talk to the people quite well in 
their own Irish tongue, to their great delight and wonder. Then 
she informed them that she had been sent to their country by a 
great spirit, to announce the arrival in Ireland of the three sacred 
cows — Bo-Finn, Bo-Ruadh, and Bo-JDhu — the white, the red, and 
the black cows, who were destined to fill the land with the most 
splendid cattle, so that the people should never know want while 
the world lasted. 

This was such good news that the people in their delight carried 
the sea-maiden from house to house in procession, in order that 
she might tell it herself to every one ; and they crowned her with 
flowers, while the musicians went before her, singing to their 

After dwelling with them a little longer she asked to be taken 
back to the sea, for she had grown sad at being away so long from 
her own kindred. So, on May Eve, a great crowd accompanied 
her down to the strand, where she took leave of them, telling them 


that on that day year they should all assemble at the same place 
to await the arrival of the three cows. Then she plunged into the 
eea and was seen no more. 

However, on that day year all the people of Ireland assembled 
on the shore to watch, as they had been directed by the beautiful 
sea-maiden ; and all the high cliffs and all the rocks were covered 
with anxious spectators from the early dawn.^ Nor did they wait 
in vain. Exactly at noon the waves were stirred with a mighty 
commotion, and three cows rose up from the sea — a white, a red, 
and a black — all beautiful to behold, with sleek skins, large soft 
eyes, and curved horns, white as ivory. They stood upon the 
shore for a while, looking around them. Then each one went in a 
different direction, by three roads ; the black went south, the red 
went north, and the milk-white heifer — the Bo-Finn — crossed the 
plain of Ireland to the very centre, where stood the king's palace. 
And every place she passed was named after her, and every well 
she drank at was called Lough-na-Bo, or Tober-Bo-Finn (the well 
of the white cow), so her memory remains to this day. 

In process of time the white heifer gave birth to twins, a male 
and female calf, and from them descended a great race, still existing 
in Ireland ; after which the white cow disappeared into a great 
cave by the sea, the entrance to which no man knows. And there 
she remains, and will remain, in an enchanted sleep, until the true 
king of Eire, the lord of Ireland, shall come to waken her ; but the 
lake near the cave is still known as Zough-na-Bo-banna (the lake 
of the snow-white cow). , Yet some say that it was the king's 
daughter was carried off by enchantment to the cave, in the form 
of a cow, and she will never regain her form until she sleeps on 
the summit of each of the three highest mountains in Ireland ; 
but only the true king of Eire can wake her from her sleep, and 
bring her to " the rock of the high place," when she will be 
restored at last to her own beautiful form. 

Another legend says that a red-haired woman struck the 
beautiful Bo-Finn with her staff, and smote her to death ; and the 
roar which the white cow gave in dying was heard throughout 
the whole of Ireland, and all the people trembled. This is evi- 
dently an allegory. The beautiful Bo-Finn — the white cow — is 
Ireland herself; and the red-haired woman who smote her to 
death was Queen Elizabeth, " in whose time, after her cruel wars, 
the cry of the slaughtered people was heard all over the land, and 
went up to heaven for vengeance against the enemies of Ireland ; 
and the kingdom was shaken as by an earthquake, by the roar of 
the oppressed against the tyrant." 

The path of the white cow across Ireland is marked by small 
rude stone monuments, still existing. They show the exact spot 
where she rested each night and had her bed, and the adjoining 
lands have names connected with the tradition — as^ " The plain of 


the Fenian cows ; " " The hill of worship ; " " The pool of the 
spotted ox," called after him because he always waited to drink 
till the white cow came, for they were much attached to each 

There are also Druid stones at one resting-place, with Ogham 
marks on them. Some time ago an endeavour was made to remove 
and carry off the stones of one of the monuments ; but the man 
who first put a spade in the ground was " struck," and remained 
bedridden for seven years. 

The plain of the death of the Bo-banna (the white cow), where 
she gave the roar that shook all Ireland is called " the plain of 
lamentation." It never was tilled, and never will be tilled. The 
people hold it as a sacred spot, and until recently it was the 
custom to have dances there every Sunday. But these old usages 
are rapidly dying out ; for though meant originally as mystic 
ceremonies, yet by degrees they degenerated to such licentious 
revelry that the wrath of the priesthood fell on them, and they 
were discontinued. 

There is a holy well near "the plain of lamentation," called 
Tobar-na-Bo (the well of the white cow) ; and these ancient 
names, coming down the stream of time from the far-off Pagan 
era, attest the great antiquity of the legend of the coming to 
Ireland of the mystic and beautiful Bo-Finn. 

There is another legend concerning the arrival of the three cows 
— the white, the red, and the black — which is said to be taken 
from the Book of Enoch. 

Four cows sprang at once from the earth — two white, a red, 
and a black — and one of the four went over to the white cow and 
taught it a mystery. And it trembled and became a man, and 
this was the first man that appeared in Erin. And the man 
fashioned a ship and dwelt there with the cows while a deluge 
covered the earth. And when the waters ceased, the red and the 
black cows went their way, but the white remained. 

The story is supposed by Bryant to be a literal rendering of 
some ancient hieroglyph, descriptive of the three races of man- 
kind, and of the dispersion of the primal human family. 


The fairies are very desirous to abduct handsome cows and 
carry them off to the fairy palace under the earth ; and if a 
farmer happens to find one of his stock ailing or diseased, the 
belief is that the fairies have carried off the real good animal, and 
sent an old wizened witch to take the form of the farmer's cow. 
It is therefore to neutralize the fairy spells that the cattle are 


driven through the fire on St. John's Eve ; and other devices are 
employed — a bunch of primroses is very effective tied on the tail, 
or a hot coal run down the cow's hack to singe the hair. 

One evening a boy was driving home his father's cows when a 
fairy blast arose in the form of a whirlwind of dust, on which the 
cows took fright, and one of them ran upon a fairy rath. The 
boy followed to turn her back, when he was met and stopped by 
an old witch-woman. 

" Let her alone, Alanna," she cried, (< she is on our ground now, 
and you can't take her away. So just run home and tell your 
father that on this day twelvemonth the cow will be restored to 
him, and bring a fine young calf along with her. But the fairies 
want her badly now, for our beautiful queen down there is 
fretting her life out for want of some milk that has the scent 
of the green grass in it and of the fresh upper air. Now don't 
fret, Alanna, but trust my words. There, take yon hazel stick 
and strike the cow boldly three times on the head, that so the 
way may be clear we have to travel." 

With that the boy struck the animal as he was desired, for the 
old witch-woman was so nice and civil that he liked to oblige her, 
and immediately after she and the cow vanished away as if they 
had sunk into the earth. 

However, the father minded the time, and when that day year 
came round he sent his son to the fairy rath to see if the witch 
had kept her promise, and there truly was the cow standing quite 
patiently, and a fine white calf by her side. So there were great 
rejoicings when he brought them home, for the fairies had kept 
their promise and behaved honourably, as indeed they always do 
when properly treated and trusted. 

Not but that the fairies will do wicked things sometimes, and, 
above all, steal the milk when they get a chance, or skim the 
cream off the milk crocks. 

A farmer had a fine cow that was the pride of his farm and 
gave splendid milk, but suddenly the animal seemed ailing and 
queer ; for she gave no milk, but went every morning and stood 
under the old hawthorn-tree quite quietly as if some one were 
milking her. 

So the man watched the place at milking time, and as usual 
down the field came the cow and took up her position close under 
the old hawthorn. Then the farmer beheld the trunk of the tree 
open, and out of the cleft came a little witch-woman all in red, 
who milked the cow in a vessel she had with her, and then 
she retreated into the tree again. 

Here was devil's work in earnest, so thought the farmer, and he 
hastened off for the greatest fairy doctor in the country. And 


when he came the cow was singed all along its back with a 
live coal ; and then an incantation was said over it, but no one 
heard the words the fairy doctor uttered ; after this he gave the 
animal a strong potion to drink, but no one knew the herbs of 
which it was made. However, the next day the cow was quite 
restored, and gave her milk as heretofore, and the spell was 
broken for ever and ever, after they had drawn a circle round 
the old hawthorn-tree with a red-hot piece of iron taken from the 
hearth ; for neither witch nor fairy can pass a circle of fire, 


Witchcraft is sometimes practised by the people to produce 
butter in the churn, the most efficacious being to stir the milk 
round with the hand of a dead man, newly taken from the church- 
yard ; but whoever is suspected of this practice is looked upon 
with great horror and dread by the neighbours. 

A woman of the mainland got married to a fine young fellow 
of one of the islands. She was a tall, dark woman who seldom 
spoke, and kept herself very close and reserved from every one. 
But she minded her business ; for she had always more butter to 
bring to market than any one else, and could therefore undersell 
the other farmers' wives. Then strange rumours got about 
concerning her, and the people began to whisper among them- 
selves that something was wrong, and that there was witchcraft 
in it, especially as it was known that whenever she churned she 
went into an inner room off the kitchen, shut the door close, and 
would allow no one to enter. So they determined to watch and 
find out the secret, and one day a girl from the neighbourhood, 
when the woman was out, got in through a window and hid her- 
self under the bed, waiting there patiently till the churning began. 

At last in came the woman, and having carefully closed the 
door began her work with the milk, churning in the usual way 
without any strange doings that might seem to have magic in 
them. But presently she stopped, and going over to a box 
unlocked it, and from this receptacle, to the girl's horror, she 
drew forth the hand of a dead man, with which she stirred the 
milk round and round several times, going down on her knees and 
muttering an incantation all the while. 

Seven times she stirred the milk with the dead hand, and seven 
times she went round the churn on her knees muttering some 
strange charm. After this she rose up and began to gather the 
butter from the churn with the dead hand, filling a pail with as 
much butter as the milk of ten cows. When the pail was quit© 


full she dipped the dead-hand three times in the milk, then dried 
it and put it back again in the box. 

The girl, as soon as she could get away unperceived, fled in 
horror from the room, and spread the news amongst the people. 
At once a crowd gathered round the house with angry cries and 
threats to break open the door to search for the dead hand. 

At last the woman appeared calm and cold as usual, and told 
them they were taking a deal of trouble about nothing, for there 
was no dead hand in the house. However, the people rushed in 
and searched, but all they saw was a huge fire on the hearth, though 
the smell of burning flesh was distinctly perceptible, and by this 
they knew that she had burnt the dead hand. Yet this did not 
save her from the vengeance of the neighbours. She was shunned 
by every one ; no one would eat with her, or drink with her, 
or talk to her, and after a while she and her husband quitted the 
island and were never more heard of. 

However, after she left and the butter was brought to the 
market, all the people had their fair and equal rights again, of 
which the wicked witchcraft of the woman had defrauded them for 
so long, and there was great rejoicing in the island over the fall 
and punishment of the wicked witch of the dead hand. 


The evil spells over milk and butter are generally practised by 
women, and arise from some feeling of malice or envy against a 
prosperous neighbour. But the spell will not work unless some 
portion of the milk is first given by consent. The people there- 
fore are very reluctant to give away milk, unless to some friend 
that they could not suspect of evil. Tramps coming in to beg for 
a mug of milk should always be avoided, they may be witches in 
disguise ; and even if milk is given, it must be drunk in the house, 
and not carried away out of it. In every case the person who 
enters must give a hand to the churn, and say, " God bless all 

A young farmer, one of the fine handsome fellows of the West, 
named Hugh Connor, who was also well off and rich, took to wife 
a pretty young girl of the village called Mary, one of the Leydons, 
and there was no better girl in all the country round, and they 
were very comfortable and happy together. But Hugh Connor 
had been keeping company before his marriage with a young 
■widow of the place, who had designs on him, and was filled with 
rage when Mary Leydon was selected for Connor's bride, in place 
of herself, Then a desire for vengeance rose up in her heart, and 


she laid her plans accordingly. First she got a fairy woman to 
teach her some witch secrets and spells, and then by great pre- 
tence of love and affection for Mary Connor, she got frequent 
admission to the house, soothing and flattering the young wife j 
and on churning days she would especially make it a point to 
come in and offer a helping hand, and if the cakes were on the 
griddle, she would sit down to watch and turn them. But it so hap- 
pened that always on these days the cakes were sure to be burned 
and spoiled, and the butter would not rise in the churn, or if any 
did come, it was sour and bad, and of no use for the market. But 
still the widow kept on visiting, and soothing, and flattering, till 
Mary Connor thought she was the very best friend to her in the 
whole wide world, though it was true that whenever the widow 
came to the house something evil happened. The best dish fell 
down of itself off the dresser and broke j or the rain got in 
through the roof, and Mary's new cashmere gown, a present that 
had come to her all the way from Dublin, was quite ruined and 
spoiled. But worse came, for the cow sickened, and a fine young 
brood of turkeys walked straight into the lake and got drowned. 
And still worst of all, the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mother, 
that was pinned up to the wall, fell down one day, and was blown 
into the fire and burned. 

After this, what luck could be on the house ? and Mary's heart 
sank within her, and she fairly broke down, and cried her very life 
out in a torrent of tears. 

Now it so happened that an old woman with a blue cloak, and 
the hood of it over her head, a stranger, was passing by at the 
time, and she stepped in and asked Mary kindly what ailed her. 
So Mary told her all her misfortunes, and how everything in the 
house seemed bewitched for evil. 

" Now/' said the stranger, " I see it all, for I am wise, and 
know the mysteries. Some one with the Evil Eye comes to your 
house. We must find out who it is." 

Then Mary told her that the nearest friend she had was the 
widow, but she was so sweet and kind, no one could suspect her 
of harm. 

" Well see," said the stranger, " only do as I bid you, and have 
everything ready when she comes." 

"She will be here soon," said Mary, "for it is churning ^day, 
and she always comes to help exactly at noon," 

"Then 111 begin at once j and now close the door fast," said the 

And with that she threw some herbs on the fire, so that a great 
smoke arose. Then she took all the plough irons that were about, 
and one of them she drove into the ground close beside the churn, 
knd put a live coal beside it j and the other irons she heated red- 
hot in the fire, and still threw on more herbs to make a thick 


smoke, "which Mary thought smelt like the incense in the church. 
Then with a hot iron rod from the fire, the strange woman mad© 
the sign of the cross on the threshold, and another over the hearth. 
After which a loud roaring was heard outside, and the widow 
rushed in crying* out that a hot stick was running through her 
heart, and all her hody was on fire. And then she dropped down 
on the floor in a fit, and her face became quite black, and her limbs 
worked in convulsions. 

" Now," said the stranger, i( you see who it is put the Evil Eye 
on all your house ; but the spell has been broken at last. Send 
for the men to carry her back to her own house, and never let that 
witch-woman cross your threshold again." 

After this the stranger disappeared, and was seen no more in 
the village. 

Now when all the neighbours heard the story, they would have 
no dealings with the widow. She was shunned and hated ; and 
no respectable person would be seen talking to her, and she went 
by the name of the Evil "Witch. So her life was very miserable, 
and not long after she died of sheer vexation and spite, all by her- 
self alone, for no one would go near her ; and the night of the 
wake no one went to offer a prayer, for they said the devil would 
be there in person to look after his own. And no one would walk 
with her coffin to the grave, for they said the devil was waiting 
at the churchyard gate for her ; and they firmly believe to this 
day that her body was carried away on that night from the grave- 
yard by the powers of darkness. But no one ventured to test the 
truth of the story by opening the coffin, so the weird legend re- 
mains still unsolved. 

But as for Hugh Connor and the pretty Mary, they prospered 
after that in all things, and good luck and the blessing of God 
seemed to be evermore on them and their house, and their cattle, 
and their children. At the same time, Mary never omitted on 
churning days to put a red-hot horse-shoe under the churn accord- 
ing as the stranger had told her, who she firmly believed was a 
good fairy in disguise, who came to help her in the time of her 
sore trouble and anxiety. 


Theee were two brothers who had a small farm and dairy between 
them, and they were honest and industrious, and worked hard to 
get along, though they had barely enough, after all their labour, 
just to keep body and soul together. 

One day while churning, the handle of the dash broke, and 
nothing being near to mend it, one of the brothers cut off a 


branch from an elder-tree that grew close to the house, and tied 
it to the dash for a handle. Then the churning went on, but to 
their surprise, the "butter gathered so thick that all the crocks in 
the house were soon full, and still there was more left. The same 
thing went on every churning day, so the brothers became rich, 
for they could fill the market with their butter, and still had more 
than enough for every buyer. 

At last, being honest and true men, they began to fear that 
there was witchcraft in it, and that they were wronging their 
neighbours by abstracting their butter, and bringing it to their 
own churn in some strange way. So they both went off together 
to a great fairy doctor, and told him the whole story, and asked 
his advice. 

" Foolish men/' he said to them, " why did you come to me ? 
for now you have broken the spell, and you will never have your 
crocks filled with butter any more. Your good fortune has passed 
away, for know the truth now. You were not wronging your 
neighbours ; all was fair and just that you did, but this is how it 
happened. Long ago, the fairies passing through your land had 
a dispute and fought a battle, and having no arms, they flung 
lumps of butter at each other, which got lodged in the branches 
of the elder-tree in great quantities, for it was just after May 
Eve, when butter is plenty. This is the butter' you have had, 
for the elder-tree has a sacred power which preserved it until 
now, and it came down to you through the branch you cut for a 
handle to the dash. But the spell is broken now that you have 
uttered the mystery, and you will have no more butter from the 

Then the brothers went away sorrowful, and never after did 
the butter come beyond the usual quantity. However, they had 
already made so much money that they were content. And they 
stocked their farm, and all things prospered with them, for they 
had dealt uprightly in the matter, and the blessing of the Lord 
was on them. 


In all countries superstitions of good or evil are attached to cer- 
tain birds. The raven, for instance, has a wide-world reputation 
as the harbinger of evil and ill-luck. The wild geese portend a 
severe winter ; the robin is held sacred, for no one would think of 
harming a bird who bears on his breast the blessed mark of the 
blood of Christ ; while the wren is hunted to death with intense 
and cruel hate on St, Stephen's Day, 



There is no Irish name for the Magpie. It is generally called 
Francagh, a Frenchman, though no one knows why. Many queer 
tales are narrated of this bird, arising from its quaint ways, 
its adroit cunning and habits of petty larceny. Its influence is 
not considered evil, though to meet one alone in the morning 
when going a journey is an ill omen, but to meet more than one 
magpie betokens good fortune, according to the old rhyme which 
runs thus— - 

" One for Sorrow, 
Two for Mirth, 
Three for Marriage, 
Four for a Birth." 


The wren is mortally hated by the Irish ; for on one occasion, 
when the Irish troops were approaching to attack a portion of 
Cromwell's army, the wrens came and perched on the Irish drums, 
and by their tapping and noise aroused the English soldiers, who 
fell on the Irish troops and killed them all. So ever since the 
Irish hunt the wren on St. Stephen's Day, and teach their children 
to run it through with thorns and kill it whenever it can be 
caught. A dead wren was also tied to a pole and carried from 
house to house by boys, who demanded money ; if nothing was 
given the wren was buried on the door-step, which was considered 
a great insult to the family and a degradation. 


If ravens come cawing about a house it is a sure sign of death, 
for the raven is Satan's own bird ; so also is the water wagtail, yet 
beware of killing it, for it has three drops of the devil's blood in 
its little body, and ill-luck ever goes with it, and follows it. 


It is very unlucky to kill the cuckoo or break its eggs, for it 
brings fine weather ; but most unlucky of all things is to kill the 
robin redbreast. The robin is God's own bird, sacred and holy, 
and held in the greatest veneration because of the beautiful 
tradition current amongst the people, that it was the robifi 



plucked out thesharpest thorn that was piercing Christ's brow on 
the cross ; and in so doing the breast of the bird was dyed red 
with the Saviour's blood, and so has remained ever since a sacred 
and blessed sign to preserve the robin from harm and make it 
beloved of all men* 



The crickets are believed to be enchanted. People do not like to 
express an exact opinion about them, so they are spoken of with 
great mystery and awe, and no one would venture to kill them 
for the whole world. But they are by no means evil ; on the 
contrary, the presence of the cricket is considered lucky, and their 
dinging keeps away the fairies at night, who are always anxious, 
to their selfish way, to have the whole hearth left clear for them- 
jelves, that they may sit round the last embers of the fire, and 
drink the cup of milk left for them by the farmer's wife, in peace 
and quietness. The crickets are supposed to be hundreds of years 
old, and their talk, could we understand it, would no doubt be 
most interesting and instructive. 


The beetle is not killed by the people for the following reason : 
they have a tradition that one day the chief priests sent mes- 
sengers in every direction to look for the Lord Jesus, and they 
came to a field where a man was reaping, and asked him — 

" Did Jesus of Nazareth pass this way ? " 

" No," said the man, " I have not seen him." 

" But I know better," said a little clock running up, Si for He 
was here to-day and rested, and has not long gone away." 

" That is false," said a great big black beetle, coming forward ; 
" He has not passed since yesterday, and you will never find Him 
on this road ; try another." 

So the people kill the clock because he tried to betray Christ; 
but they spare the beetle and will not touch him, because he 
saved the Lord on that day. 



Hares are considered unlucky, as the witches constantly assume 
their form in order to gain entrance to a field where they can 
bewitch the cattle. A man once fired at a hare he met in the 
early morning, and having wounded it, followed the track of the 
blood till it disappeared within a cabin. On entering he found 
Nancy Molony,the greatest witch in all the county, sitting by the 
fire, groaning and holding her side. And then the man knew that 
she had been out in the form of a hare, and he rejoiced over her 

Still it is not lucky to kill a hare before sunrise, even when it 
crosses your path; but should it cross three times, then turn 
back, for danger is on the road before you. 

A tailor one time returning home very late at night from a 
wake, or better, very early in the morning, saw a hare sitting on 
the path before him, and not inclined to run away. As he 
approached, with his stick raised to strike her, he distinctly heard 
a voice saying, "Don't kill it." However, he struck the hare 
three times, and each time heard the voice say, " Don't kill it." 
But the last blow knocked the poor hare quite dead; and 
immediately a great big weasel sat up, and began to spit at him. 
This greatly frightened the tailor who, however, grabbed the hare, 
and ran off as fast as he could. Seeing him look so pale and 
frightened, his wife asked the cause, on which he told her the 
whole story; and they both knew he had done wrong, and 
offended some powerful witch, who would, be avenged. How- 
ever, they dug a grave for the hare and buried it ; for they were 
afraid to eat it, and thought that now perhaps the danger was 
over. But next day the man became suddenly speechless, and 
died off before the seventh day was over, without a word ever- 
more passing his lips ; and then all the neighbours knew that the 
witch-woman had taken her revenge. 


Weasels are spiteful and malignant, and old withered witches 
sometimes take this form. It is extremely unlucky to meet a 
weasel the first thing in the morning ; still it would be hazardous 
to kill it, for it might be a witch and take revenge. Indeed one 
should be very cautious about killing a weasel at any time, for all 
the other weasels will resent your audacity, and kill your chickens 
when an opportunity offers. The only remedy is to kill one 
chicken yourself, make the sign of the cross solemnly three, times 
over it, then tie it to a stick hung up in the yard, and the weasels 
will have no more power for evil, nor the witches who take their 

j2 2 


form, at least during tlie year, if the stick is left standing ; but 
the chicken may be eaten when the sun goes down. 

A goose is killed on St. Michael's Day because the son of a 
king, being then at a feast, was choked by the bone of a goose ; 
but was restored by St. Patrick. Hence the king ordered a goose 
to be sacrificed every year on the anniversary of the day to com- 
memorate the event, and in honour of St. Michael. 

A fowl is killed on St. Martin's Day, and the blood sprinkled 
on the house. In Germany a black cock is substituted. 

A crowing hen, a whistling girl, and a black cat, are considered 
most unlucky. Beware of them in a house. 

If a cock comes on the threshold and crows, you may expect 

To see three magpies on the left hand when on a journey is un- 
lucky ; but two on the right hand is a good omen. 

If you hear the cuckoo on your right hand you will have luck 
all the year after. 

Whoever kills a robin redbreast will never have good luck were 
they to live a thousand years. 

A water wagtail near the house betokens bad news on its way 
to you. 

If the first lamb of the season is born black, it foretells mourning 
garments for the family within the year. 

It is very lucky for a hen and her chickens to stray into your 
house. Also it is good to meet a white lamb in the early morning 
with the sunlight on its face. 

It is unlucky to meet a magpie, a cat, or a lame woman when 
going a journey. Or for a cock to meet a person in the doorway 
and crow before him — then the journey should be put off. 

If one magpie comes chattering to your door it is a sign of 
death ; but if two prosperity will follow. For a magpie to come 
to the door and look at you is a sure death-sign, and nothing can 
avert the doom, 

THE HLOHEKTtES 0£ H^BBS* &o. 181 

A flight of rooks over an army betokens defeat ; if over a house, 
or over people when driving or walking, death will follow. 

It is very unlucky to ask a man on his way to fish where he is 
going. And many would turn hack, knowing that it was an evil 

When a swarm of bees suddenly quits the hive it is a sign that 
death is hovering near the house. But the evil maybe averted by 
the powerful prayers and exorcism of the priest. 

The shoe of a horse or of an ass nailed to the door-post will 
bring good luck; because these animals were in the stall when 
Christ was born, and are blessed for evermore. But the shoe 
must be found, not given, in order to bring luck. 

In whatever quarter you are looking when you first hear the 
cuckoo in the season, you will be travelling in that direction before 
the year is over. 

It was the privilege of the chief bards to wear mantles made of 
birds' plumage. A short cape flung on the shoulders made of 
mallards' necks and crests must have been very gorgeous in effect, 
glittering like jewels, when the torch-light played on the colours 
at the festivals. 


The Irish, according to the saying of a wise man of the race, are 
the last of the 305 great Celtic nations of antiquity spoken of by 
Josephus, the Jewish historian ; and they alone preserve inviolate 
the ancient venerable language, minstrelsy, and Bardic traditions, 
with the strange and mystic secrets of herbs, through whose 
potent powers they can cure disease, cause love or hatred, discover 
the hidden mysteries of life and death, and dominate over the 
fairy wiles or the malific demons. 

The ancient people used to divine future events, victory in wars, 
safety in a dangerous voyage, triumph of a projected undertaking, 
success in love, recovery from sickness, or the approach of death ; 
all through the skilful use of herbs, the knowledge of which had 
come down to them through the earliest traditions of the human 
race. One of these herbs, called the Fairy-plant, was celebrated 
for its potent power of divination ; but only the adepts knew the 
mystic manner of its preparation for use. 


There was another herb of which a drink was made, called the 
Bardic potion, for the Bards alone had the secret of the herb, and 
of the proper mode of treatment by which its mystic power could 
be revealed. This potion they gave their infant children at their 
birth, for it had the singular property of endowing the recipient 
with a fairy sweetness o? voice of the most rapturous and thrill- 
ing charm. And instances are recorded of men amongst the Celtic 
Bards, who, having drunk of this potion in early life, were ever 
after endowed with the sweet voice, like fairy music, that swayed 
the hearts of the hearers as they chose to love or war, joy or sad- 
ness, as if by magic influence, or lulled them into the sweet calm 
of sleep. Such, according to the Bardic legends, was the extra- 
ordinary power of voice possessed by the great Court Minstrel of 
Fionn Ma-Coul, who resided with the great chief at his palace of 
Almhuin, and always sat next him at the royal table. 

The virtue of herbs is great, but they must be gathered at night, 
and laid in the hand of a dead man to hold. There are herbs that 
produce love, and herbs that produce sterility ; but only the fairy 
doctor knows the secrets of their power, and he will reveal the 
knowledge to no man unless to an adept. The wise women learn 
the mystic powers from the fairies, but how they pay for the 
knowledge none dare to tell. 

The fairy doctors are often seized with trembling while utter- 
ing a charm, and look round with a scared glance of terror, as if 
some awful presence were beside them. But the people have the 
most perfect faith in the herb-men and wise women, and the faith 
may often work the cure. 

There are seven herbs of great value and power; they are 
ground ivy, vervain, eyebright, groundsel, foxglove, the bark of 
the elder-tree, and the young shoots of the hawthorn. 

Nine balls of these mixed together may be taken, and after- 
wards a potion made of bog-water and salt, boiled in a vessel, with 
a piece of money and an elf-stone. The elf-stone is generally 
found near a rath ; it has great virtues, but being once lifted up by 
the spade it must never again touch the earth, or all its virtue is 
gone. (This elf-stone is in reality only an ancient stone arrow- 

The Mead Cailleath, or wood anemone, is used as a plaister for 

The hazel-tree has many virtues. It is sacred and powerful 
against devils' wiles, and has mysteries and secret properties known 
to the wise and the adepts. The ancient Irish believed that there 
were fountains at the head of the chief rivers of Ireland, over 
each of which grew nine hazel-trees that at certain times produced 
beautiful red nuts. These nuts fell on the surface of the water, 


and the salmon in the river came up and ate of them, which caused 
the red spots on the salmon. And whoever could catch and eat 
one of these salmon would he indued with the suhlimest poetic 
intellect. Hence the phrase current amongst the people : " Had I 
the net of science ; " " Had I eaten of the salmon of Knowledge." 
And this supernatural knowledge came to the great Fionn through 
the touch of a salmon, and made him foreknow all events. 

Of all herns the yarrow is the best for cures and potions. It is 
even sewn up in clothes as a preventive of disease. 

The Liss-more, or great herb, has also strong healing power, 
and is used as a charm. 

There is an herb, also, or fairy grass, called the Faud Shaughran f 
or the " stray sod," and whoever treads the path it grows on is 
compelled by an irresistible impulse to travel on without stopping, 
all through the night, delirious and restless, over bog and moun- 
tain, through hedges and ditches, till wearied and bruised and 
cut, his garments torn, his hands bleeding, he finds himself in the 
morning twenty or thirty miles, perhaps, from his own home. 
And those who fall under this strange influence have all the time 
the sensation of flying and are utterly unable to pause or turn 
back or change their career. There is, however, another herb 
that can neutralize the effects of the Faud ShaugJiran, but only 
the initiated can utilize its mystic properties. 

Another grass is the Fair-Gortha, or the " hunger-stricken sod," 
and if the hapless traveller accidentally treads on this grass by the 
road-side, while passing on a journey, either by night or day, he 
becomes at once seized with the most extraordinary cravings of 
hunger and weakness, and unless timely relief is afforded he must 
certainly die. 

When a child is sick a fairy woman is generally sent for, who 
makes a drink for the patient of those healing herbs of which she 
only has the knowledge. A childless woman is considered to 
have the strongest power over the secrets of herbs, especially 
those used for the maladies of children. 

There is an herb, grown on one of the western islands off the 
coast of Connemara, which is reported to have great and mystic 
power. But no one will venture to pronounce its name. If it is 
desired to know for certain whether one lying sick will recover, 
the nearest relative must go out and look for the herb just as the 
sun is rising. And while holding it in the hand, an ancient form 
of incantation must be said. If the herb remains fresh and green 
the patient will certainly recover ; but if it wither in the hand 


while the words of the incantation are said over it, then the sick 
person is doomed. He will surely die. 

It was from their great knowledge of the properties of herbs 
that the Tuatha-de-Dananns obtained the reputation of being 
sorcerers and necromancers. At the great battle of Moytura in 
Mayo, fought about three thousand years ago, Dianecht, the great, 
wise Druid physician to the army, prepared a bath of herbs and 
plants in the line of the battle, of such wonderful curative efficacy 
that the wounded who were plunged into it came out whole, it 
being a sovereign remedy for all diseases. But the king of the 
Tuatha having lost his hand in the combat, the bath had no power 
to heal him. So Dianecht made him a silver hand, and the 
monarch was ever after known in history as Nuad Airgeat lamh 
(Nuad of the silver hand). 

All herbs pulled on May Day Eve have a sacred healing power, 
if pulled in the name of the Holy Trinity ; but if in the name of 
Satan, they work evil. Some herbs are malific if broken by the 
hand. So the plant is tied to a dog's foot, and when he runs it 
breaks, without a hand touching it, and may be used with safety. 

A man pulled a certain herb on May Eve to cure his son who 
was sick to death. The boy recovered, but disappeared and was 
never heard of after, and the father died that day year. He had 
broken the fatal herb with the hand and so the doom fell on 

Another man did the like, and gave the herb to his son to eat, 
who immediately began to bark like a dog, and so continued till 
he died. 

The fatal herbs have signs known only to the fairy doctors, who 
should always be consulted before treating the sick in the family. 

There are seven herbs that nothing natural or supernatural can 
injure ; they are vervain, John's-wort, speedwell, eyebright, mal- 
low, yarrow, and self-help. But they must be pulled at noon on 
a bright day, near the full of the moon, to have full power. 

It is firmly believed that the herb-women who perform curses 
receive their knowledge from the fairies, who impart to them the 
mystical secrets of herbs and where to find them ; but these secrets 
must not be revealed except on the death-bed, and then only to 
the eldest of the family. Many mysterious rites are practised in 
the making and the giving of potions ; and the messenger who 
carries the draught to the sufferer must never look behind him nor 
utter a word till he hands the medicine to the patient, who 
instantly swallows a cup of the mixture before other hands have 
touched it. 

A celebrated doctor in the south was an old woman, who had 


lived seven years with the fairies, She performed wonderful 
cures, and only required a silver tenpence to be laid on her table 
for the advice given and for the miraculous herb potion. 


Some of the country people have still a traditional remembrance 
of very powerful herbal remedies, and love potions are even now 
frequently in use. They are generally prepared by an old woman ; 
but must be administered by the person who wishes to inspire the 
tender passion. At the same time., to give a love potion is 
considered a very awful act, as the result may be fatal, or at least 
full of danger. 

A fine, handsome young man, of the best character and conduct, 
suddenly became wild and reckless, drunken and disorderly, from 
the effect, it was believed, of a love potion administered to him by 
a young girl who was passionately in love with him. "When she 
saw the change produced in him by her act, she became moody 
and nervous, as if a constant terror were over her, and no one 
ever saw her smile again. Finally, she became half deranged, and 
after a few years of a strange, solitary life, she died of melancholy 
and despair. This was said to be " The Love-potion Curse." 


Th8 girl who wishes to see her future husband must go out and 
gather certain herbs in the light of the full moon of the new year, 
repeating this charm — 

" Moon, moon, tell unto me 
When my true love I shall see ? 
What fine clothes am I to wear ? 
How many children shall I bear? 
For if my love comes not to me 
Dark and dismal my life will be." 

Then the girl, cutting three pieces of clay from the sod with a 
black-hafted knife, carries them home, ties them up in the left 
stocking with the right garter, places the parcel under her pillow, 
and dreams a true dream of the man she is to marry and of all 
her future fate. 


Ten leaves of the hemlock dried and powdered and mixed in 
food or drink will make the person you like to love you in return. 


Also keep a sprig of mint in your hand till the herb grows moist 
and warm, then take hold of the hand of the woman you love, 
and she will follow you as long as the two hands close over the 
herb. No invocation is necessary ; but silence must be kept be- 
tween the two parties for ten minutes, to give the charm time to 
work with due efficacy. 


The healing art in all the early stages of a nation's life, and 
amongst all primitive tribes, has been associated with religion. 
For the wonderful effects produced by certain herbs and modes of 
treatment were believed by the simple and unlettered people to 
be due to supernatural influence acting in a mystic and magical 
manner on the person afflicted. 

The medicine men were therefore treated with the profoundest 
awe and respect. And the medicine women came in also for 
their share of veneration and often of superstitious dread; for 
their mysterious incantations were supposed to have been taught 
to them by fairies and the spirits of the mountain. 

The Irish from the most remote antiquity were devoted to mys- 
tical medicine, and had a remarkable knowledge of cures and 
remedies for disease, obtained through the power and action of 
herbs on the human frame. 

The physicians of the pagan era formed a branch of the Druid 
priesthood, and were treated with distinguished honour. They 
had special places assigned to them at the royal banqueting table 
at Tar a, and a certain revenue was secured to them that they 
might live honourably. 

When in attendance on a patient the doctor was entitled by 
law to his diet, along with four of his pupils ; but if he failed to 
cure from deficiency of skill, he was obliged to refund the fees 
and pay back all the expenses of his keep ; a measure which no 
doubt greatly stimulated the serious attention of the learned 
ollamhs of healing to the case in hand. 

So great, indeed, was the importance attached to the healing 
art in Ireland, that even prior to the Christian era, a building of 
the nature of an hospital was erected at Tara, near to the palace 
of the king. This was called " The House of Sorrow," and the 
sick and wounded were provided there with all necessary care. 

On one occasion it is recorded that a great chief and prince out 
of Munster was brought to " The House of Sorrow " to be treated 
of wounds received in battle, but the attendant, through treachery, 


placed poison in the wounds, and then closed them so carefully 
that there was no external sign, though the groans of the wounded 
man were terrible to hear. Then the learned Fioneen was sent 
for, " the prophetic physician," as he was called, from his great 
skill in diagnosis ; and when he arrived with three of his pupils at 
the hospital they found the chief lying prostrate, groaning in 
horrible agony. 

" What groan is that ? " asked the master of the first pupil. 

u It is from a poisoned barb/' he answered. 

" And what groan is that ? " asked the master, of the second 

" It is from a hidden reptile," he answered. 

" And what groan is that ? " asked Fioneen of the third pupil. 

" It is from a poisoned seed," he answered. 

Then Fioneen set to work, and having cauterized the wounds 
with red hot irons, the poisonous bodies were extracted from 
beneath the skin, and the chief was healed. 

In later times the Irish physicians were much celebrated for their 
learning, and numerous Irish medical manuscripts are in existence, 
both in Ireland and England, and are also scattered through the 
public libraries of the continent. They are chiefly written in Latin, 
with a commentary in Irish, and show a thorough knowledge on 
the part of the writers of the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Aris- 
totle, and others as celebrated. For after the introduction of 
Christianity Latin was much cultivated in the Irish schools, and 
the priests and physicians not only wrote, but could converse 
fluently in Latin, which language became the chief medium of 
communication between them and the learned men of the conti- 
nent. But the most ancient mode of procedure amongst the Irish 
ollamhs and adepts was of a medico-religious character; consisting 
of herb cures, fairy cures, charms, invocations, and certain magical 
ceremonies. A number of these cures have been preserved tradi- 
tionally by the people, and form a very interesting study of early 
medical superstitions, as they have been handed down through 
successive generations; for the profession of a physician was 
hereditary in certain families, and the accumulated lore of cen- 
turies was transmitted carefully from father to son by this custom 
and usage. 

Many of the ancient cures and charms are strange and mystic, 
and were accompanied by singular mysterious forms, which no 
doubt in many cases aided the cure ; especially amongst a people 
so imaginative and susceptible to spiritual influences as the Irish. 
Others show a fervent faith and have a pathetic simplicity of 
expression, such as we find in " The Charm against Sorrow," and 
others, from the original Irish, of equal pathos and tenderness, to 
be quoted further on. The utterance evidently of a people of 


deep, almost sublime, faith in the Divine power of the Ruler of 
the world, and of the ever-present ministration of saints and 
angels to humanity. 

Every act of the Irish peasant's life has always been connected 
with the belief in unseen spiritual agencies. The people live 
in an atmosphere of the supernatural, and nothing would induce 
them to slight an ancient form or break through a traditional 
usage. They believe that the result would be something awful ; 
too terrible to be spoken of save in a whisper, should the customs 
of their forefathers be lightly interfered with. 

In the Western Islands especially, the old superstitions that 
have come down from the ancient times are observed with the 
most solemn reverence, and the people in fact, as to their habits 
and ideas, remain much the same as St. Patrick left them fourteen 
hundred years ago. The swift currents of thought that stir the 
great centres of civilization and impel the human intellect on its 
path of progress, have never reached them ; all the waves of the 
centuries drift by their shores and leave them unchanged. 

It is therefore in the islands and along the western coast that 
one gathers most of those strange legends, charms, mysteries, and 
world-old superstitions which have lingered longer in Ireland 
than in any other part of Europe. 

Many of those included in the following selection were narrated 
by the peasants, either in Irish, or in the expressive Irish-English, 
which still retains enough of the ancient idiom to make the 
language impressively touching and picturesque. The ancient 
charms which have come down by tradition from a remote an- 
tiquity are peculiarly interesting from their deep human pathos, 
blended with the sublime trust in the Divine invisible power, so 
characteristic of the Irish temperament in all ages. A faith that 
believes implicitly, trusts devoutly, and hopes infinitely ; when 
the soul in its sorrow turns to heaven for the aid which cannot be 
found on earth, or given by earthly hands. The following charms 
from the Irish express much of this mingled spirit of faith and 
hope : — 


A charm set by Mary for her Son, before the fair man and the 
turbulent woman laid Him in the grave. 

The charm of Michael with the shield 5 
Of the palm-branch of Christ ; 
Of Bridget with her veil. 
The charm which God set for Himself when the divinity within 
Him was darkened. 

A charm to be said by the cross when the night is black and the 
soul is heavy with sorrow. 


A charm to "be said at sunrise, with the hands on the breast, 
when the eyes are red with weeping*, and the madness of grief is 

A charm that has no words, only the silent prayer. 


u Christ, by your five wounds, by the nine orders of angels, if 
this woman is ordained for me, let me hold her hand now, and 
breathe her breath. O my love, I set a charm to the top of your 
head ; to the sole of your foot ; to each side of your breast, that you 
may not leave me nor forsake me. As a foal after the mare, as a 
child after the mother, may you follow and stay with me till death 
comes to part us asunder. Amen," 


A charm of most desperate love, to be written with a raven's 
quill in the blood of the ring finger of the left hand. 

" By the power that Christ brought from heaven, mayest thou 
love me, woman! As the sun follows its course, mayest thou 
follow me. As light to the eye, as bread to the, hungry, as joy to 
the heart, may thy presence be with me, woman that I love, till 
death comes to part us asunder." 

FOR THE NIGHT-FIRE (the fever). 

u God save thee, Michael, archangel ! God save thee ! " 

" What aileth thee, man ? " 

" A headache and a sickness and a weakness of the heart. 
Michael, archangel, canst thou cure me, angel of the Lord ? " 

" May three things cure thee, man. May the shadow of 
Christ fall on thee! May the garment of Christ cover thee! 
May the breath of Christ breathe on thee ! And when I come 
again thou wilt be healed." 

These words are said over the patient while his arms are lifted 
in the form of a cross, and water is sprinkled on his head. 


u God save you, my three brothers, God save you ! And how 
far have ye to go, my three brothers ? " 


" To the Mount of Olivet, to bring back gold for a cup to hold 
the tears of Christ." 

" Go, then. Gather the gold ; and may the tears of Christ fall 
on it, and thou wilt be cured, both body and soul." 

These words must be said while a drink is given to the patient. 


u i The child has the measles/ said John the Baptist. 

u { The time is short till he is well/ said the Son of God, 

" < When ? ' said John the Baptist. 

" l Sunday morning, before sunrise/ said the Son of God." 

This is to be repeated three times, kneeling at a cross, for three 
mornings before sunrise, and the child will be cured by the Sunday 


Three stones must be charmed by the hands of a wise fairy 
doctor, and cast by his hand, saying as he does so — 

" The first stone I cast is for the head in the mad fever ; the 
second stone^ I cast is for the heart in the mad fever ; the third 
stone I cast is for the back in the mad fever. 

" In the name of the Trinity, let peace come. Amen." 


Three things are of the Evil One-— 
An evil eye ; 
An evil tongue ; 
An evil mind. 
Three things are of God ; and these three are what Mary told 
to her Son, for she heard them in heaven — 
The merciful word ; 
The singing word ; 
And the good word. 
May the power of these three holy things be on all the men and 
women of Erin for evermore. 


u The briar that spreads, the thorn that grows, the sharp spike 
that pierced the brow of Christ, give you power to draw this thorn 


from the flesh, or let it perish inside ; in the name of the Trinity. 



Take a handful of clay from a new-made grave, and shake it 
between them, saying — 

" Hate ye one another ! May ye he as hateful to each other as 
sin to Christ, as bread eaten without blessing is to God." 


This is a charm I set for love ; a woman's charm of love and 
<3esire ; a charm of God that none can break — 

" You for me, and I for thee and for none else ; your face to 
mine, and your head turned away from all others." 

This is to be repeated three times secretly, over a drink given to 
the one beloved. 


Kill a black cock, and go to the meeting of three cross-roads 
where a murderer is buried. Throw the dead bird over your left 
shoulder then and there, after nightfall, in the name of the devil, 
holding a piece of money in your hand all the while. And ever 
after, no matter what you spend, you will always find the same 
piece of money undiminished in your pocket. 


fi I kill a hound. I kill a small hound. I kill a deceitful hound. 
I kill a worm, wherein there is terror ; I kill all his wicked brood. 
Seven angels from Paradise will help me, that I may do valiantly, 
and give no more time to the worm to live than while I recite 
this prayer. Amen." 


" Take away the pain, O Mary, mother, and scatter the mist 
from the eyes. For all power is given to the mother of Christ to 

* The ancient serpent-idol was called in Irish, "The Great Worm." St. 
Patrick destroyed it, and had it thrown into the sea. There are no serpents 
now to be found in Ireland, not even grass snakes or scorpions. 


give light to the eyes, and to drive the red mist hack to the 
billows whence it came." 


Huh the part affected with flax and tow, heated in the fire, 
repeating in Irish — 

" In the name of a rough man and a mild woman, and of the 
Lamb of God, be healed from your pains and your sins. So be it. 

This custom refers to the tradition that one day the Lord Christ, 
being weary, asked leave to rest in a house, but was refused by the 
master of the house, a rough, rude man. Then the wife, being a 
mild woman, had pity on the wayfarer, and brought Him in to 
rest, and gave Him a cup of water to drink, and spake kindly to 
Him. After which the man was suddenly taken with severe pains, 
and seemed like to die in his agony. 

On this Christ called for some flax and tow, and, breathing on 
it, placed it on the part affected, by which means the man was quite 
healed. And then the Lord Christ went His way, but not before 
the man had humbly asked pardon for his rudeness to a stranger. 

The tradition of this cure has remained ever since, and a hot 
plaster of flax and tow is used by the peasantry invariably for all 
sudden pains, and found to be most efficacious as a cure. 


u May Christ and His saints stand between you and harm. 

Mary and her Son. 

St. Patrick with his staff. 

Martin with his mantle. 

Bridget with her veil. 

Michael with his shield. 
And God over all with His strong right hand.'' 


u Mary, who had the victory over all women, give me victory 
now over my enemies, that they may fall to the ground, as wheat 
when it is mown." 

Medical superstitions and ancient charms. 103 


"Who will heal me from the red, thirsty, shivering cold disease 
that came from the foreigner, and kills people with its poisonous 
pain ? " " The prayer of Mary to her Son, the prayer of Columb- 
kill to God ; these will heal thee. Amen." 


Say this oration three times over the patient, making the sign 
of the cross each time — 

" Bridget, Patrick, Solomon, and the great Mary, banish this 
redness off you." 

Then take butter, breathe on it quite close, and give it to the 
person to chafe himself therewith. 

To ascertain if^ he will recover, put a handful of yarrow in his 
hand while he is sleeping; if it is withered in the morning 
he will die j but if it remains fresh the disease will leave him. 


"Whisper the Creed in his right ear on a Friday, and again in 
his left ear on a Wednesday. Do this weekly till he is tamed ; 
for so he will be. 


" The poison of a serpent, the venom of the dog, the sharpness 
of the spear, doth not well in man. The blood of one dog, the 
blood of many dogs, the blood of the hound of Fliethas — these I 
invoke. It is not a wart to which my spittle is applied. I 
strike disease ; I strike wounds. I strike the disease of the 
dog that bites, of the thorn that wounds, of the iron that strikes. 
I invoke the three daughters of Fliethas against the serpent. 
Benediction on this body to be healed; benediction on the spittle; 
benediction on him who casts out the disease. In the name of 
God. Amen." 


To be said in Irish, while a piece of butter is rubbed over the 
breast — 
w Son, see bow swelled is the breast of the woman ! 0, you 



that bore a Son, look at it yourself ! Mary ! King of 
Heaven, let this woman be healed ! Amen." 


Close the wound tightly with the two fingers, and repeat these 
words slowly — 

" In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Mary. The wound 
was red, the cut was deep, and the flesh was sore ; but there will 
be no more blood, and no more pain, till the blessed Virgin Mary 
bears a child again." 


This is a charm Mary gave to St. Bridget, and she wrote it 
down, and hid it in the hair of her head, without deceit — 

<{ If a fairy, or a man, or a woman hath overlooked thee, 
there are three greater in heaven who will cast all evil from 
thee into the great and terrible sea. Pray to them, and to the 
seven angels of God, and they will watch over thee. Amen." 


" The fire of earth is hot, and the fire of hell is hotter ; but the 
love of Mary is above all. "Who will quench the fire P Who 
will heal the sick ? May the fire of God consume the Evil One ! 



Get a raven's heart, split it open with a black-hafted knife ; 
make three cuts and place a black bean in each cut. Then 
plant it, and when the beans sprout put one in your mouth 
and say — 

•' By virtue of Satan's heart, 
And by strength of my great art, 
I desire to be invisible." 

And so it will be as long as the bean is kept in the mouth. 


u I kill the evil ; I kill the worm in the flesh, the worm in the 
grass. I put a venomous charm in the murderous pain. The 


charm that was set by Peter and Paul ; the charm that kills the 
worm in the flesh, in the tooth, in the body." 

This oration to be said three times, while the patient is rubbed 
with butter on the place of the pain. 


A happy mild charm, a charm which Christ discovered. The 
charm that kills the worm in the flesh. 

" May Peter take, may Paul take, may Michael take, the pain 
away, the cruel pain that kills the back and the life, and darkens 
the eyes." 

This oration written, and tied to a hare's foot, is always to be 
worn by the person afflicted, hung round the neck. 


In the Western Isles the following charm is used for a 
sprain — 

A strand of black wool is wound round and round the ankle, 
while the operator recites in a low voice — 

4t The Lord rade and the foal slade, 

He lighted and He righted ; 
Set joint to joint and bone to bone, 

And sinew unto sinew. 
In the nam 3 of God and the Saints, 
Of Mary and her Son, 
Let this man be healed. Amen." 

A similar charm was used in Germany in the tenth century, ac- 
cording to Jacob Grimm, 


Golden butter on a, new-made dish, such as Mary set before 
Christ. This to be given in the presence of a mill, of a stream, 
and the presence of a tree ; the lover saying softly — 

" woman, loved by me, mayest thou give me thy heart, thy 
eoul and body. Amen." 


An oration which Colum-Cille set to a wound full of poison — 
u Arise, Carmac, Clunane, through Christ be thou healed. 



By the hand of Christ be thou healed in blood, in marrow, and in 
bone. Amen." 

This oration to be pronounced over a man or a woman, a horse 
or a cow, but never over a hog or a dog. The wound to be rubbed 
with butter during the oration. 


Go to a graveyard ; kneel upon any grave j say three paters 
and three aves for the soul of the dead lying beneath. Then 
take a handful of grass from the grave, chew it well, casting 
forth each bite without swallowing any portion. After this pro- 
cess the sufferer, were he to live a hundred years, will never have 
toothache any more. 


The patient must vow a vow to God, the Virgin, and the 
new moon, never to comb his hair on a Friday, in remem- 
brance of relief should he be cured ; and whenever or wherever 
he first sees the moon he must fall on his knees and say five 
prayers in gratitude for the cure, even if crossing a river at the 


Carry in your pocket the two jaw-bones of a haddock ; for ever 
since the miracle of the loaves and fishes these bones are an infal- 
lible remedy against toothache, and the older they are the better, 
as nearer the time of the miracle. 

Also this charm is to be sewn on the clothes— 

14 As Peter sat on a marble stone, 
The Lord came to him all alone, 

* Peter, Peter, what makes you shake ? * 

* O Lord and Master, it is the toothache.' 
Then Christ said, • Take these for My sake # 
And never more you'll have toothache.' " 

To avoid toothache never shave on a Sunday, 


Anoint a freckled face with the blood of a bull, or of a hare, 
and it will put away the freckles and make the skin fair and clear. 
Also the distilled water of walnuts is good, 



There is a pretty secret to cure a burn without a scar: 
"Take sheep's suet and the rind of the elder-tree, boil both 
together, and the ointment will cure a burn without leaving a 


The whitest of frankincense beaten fine, and drunk in white 
wine, wonderfully assisteth the memory, and is profitable for the 
stomach also. 


Take a hank of grey yarn, a lock of the patient's hair, some 
parings of his nails, and bury them deep in the earth, repeating, 
m Irish, as a burial service, " Let the great sickness lie there for 
ever. By the power of Mary and the soul of Paul, let the great 
sickness lie buried in the clay, and never more rise out of the 
ground. Amen." 

If the patient, on awaking from sleep, calls out the name of the 
person who uttered these words, his recovery is certain. 

If a person crosses over the patient while he is in a fit, or stands 
between him and the fire, then the sickness will cleave to him and 
depart from the other that was afllicted. 


A griddle cake made of meal, to be given, not bought or made ; 
but a cake given of love or of charity, not for begging ; a cake 
given freely, with a prayer and a blessing ; and from the break- 
fast of a man and his wife who had the same name before mar- 
riage ; this is the cure. 

The touch of a piebald horse. Even a piebald horse pawing 
before the door helps the cure. 

The child to be passed seven times under and over an ass while 
a red string is tied on the throat of the patient. 

Nine hairs from the tail of a black cat, chopped up and soaked 
in water, which is then swallowed, and the cough will be re- 


" One day when out snipe shooting/' a gentleman writes, " I 
saw a horrid-looking insect staring un at me. I called to a man 
close by, and asked him the name of it. He told me it was called 
the Thordall, and was reckoned a great cure for the chin-cough / 
for if any one got it safe in a bottle and kept it prisoner till 
it died, the disease would go away from the patient. It was just 
the time to try the cure, for my child was laid up with the 
epidemic. So I bottled my friend and daily examined the state 
of his health. It lasted for a fortnight, and at the end of that 
time the child had quite recovered, and the horrible-looking 
insect creature lay dead." 


The operator makes passes, like the mesmerist, over the member 
affected by the rheumatic nain, never touching the part, but 
moving his hand slowly over it at some distance, while he mutters 
a form of words in a low voice. 


Point a gooseberry thorn at it nine times, saying, "Away, 
away, away ! " and the stye will vanish presently and disappear* 


On meeting a funeral, take some of the clay from under the feet 
of the men who bear the coffin and apply it to the wart, wishing 
strongly at the same time that it may disappear j and so it 
will be. 


Rub the part affected with unsalted butter, and make the sign 
of the cross seven times over the place. 


A decoction of the flowers of daisies boiled down is an excellent 
wash, to be used constantly. 



Cover the head well with wool, then place oil-skin over, and the 
water will be drawn up out of the head. When the wool is quite 
eaturated the brain will be free and the child cured. 


Take three green stones, gathered from a running brook, 
between midnight and morning, while no word is said. In silence 
it must be done. Then uncover the limb and rub each stone 
several times closely downwards from the hip to the toe, saying 
in Irish — 

" Wear away, wear away, 
There you shall not stay, 
Cruel pain — away, away/' 


Wrap the child in a blanket, take it to the pigsty, rub the 
child's head to the back of a pig, and the mumps will leave it 
and pass from the child to the animal. 


Take nine black stones gathered before sunrise, and bring the 
patient with a rope round his neck to a holy well — not speaking 
all the while. Then cast in three stones in the name of God, 
three in the name of Christ, and three in the name of Mary. 
Repeat this process for three mornings and the disease will be 


Take nine pieces of young elder twig ; run a thread of silk of 
three strands through the pieces, each piece being an inch long. 
Tie this round the patient's neck next the skin. Should the 
thread break and the amulet fall, it must be buried deep in tli£ 
earth and another amulet made like the first, for if once it touches 
the ground the charm is lost. 

Another '. 

Take nine pieces of a dead man's skull, grind them to powder, 
and then mix with a decoction of wall rue. Give the patient a 


spoonful of this mixture every morning fasting, till the whole 
potion is swallowed. None must be left, or the dead man would 
come to look for the pieces of his skull. 


"When a person becomes low and depressed and careless about 
everything, as if all vital strength and energy had gone, he is said 
to have got a fairy blast. And blast-water must be poured over 
him by the hands of a fairy doctor while saying, " In the name of 
the saint with the sword, who has strength before God and stands 
at His right hand." Great care being taken that no portion of the 
water is profaned. Whatever is left after the operation, must be 
poured on the fire. 


Fairy darts are generally aimed at the fingers, causing the joints 
to swell and grow red and inflamed. An eminent fairy- woman 
made the cure of fairy darts her speciality, and she was sent for 
by all the country round, and was generally successful. But she 
had no power unless asked to make the cure, and she took no 
reward at the time ; not till the patient was cured, and the dart 
extracted. The treatment included a great many prayers and 
much anointing with a salve, of which she only had the secret. 
Then she proceeded to extract the dart with great solemnity, 
working with a small instrument, on the point of which she finally 
produced the dart. This proved to be a bit of flax artfully laid 
under the skin by the malicious fairies, causing all the evil, and of 
course on seeing the flax no one could doubt the power of the 
operator, and the grateful patient paid his fee. 


Thebe is a book, a little book, and the house which has it will 
never be burned ; the ship that holds it will never founder ; the 
woman who keeps it in her hand will be safe in childbirth. But 
none except a fairy man knows the name of the book, and he will 
not reveal it for love or money ; only on his death-bed will he tell 
the secret of the name to the one person he selects. 

The adepts and fairy doctors keep their mysteries very secret, 
and it is not easy to discover the word of a charm, for the operator 


loses his power if the words are said without the proper pre- 
liminaries, or if said by a profane person without faith, for the 
operator should not have uttered the mystery in the hearing of one 
who would mock, or treat the matter lightly; therefore he is 

Some years ago an old man lived in Mayo who had great know- 
ledge of charms, and of certain love philtres that no woman could 
resist. But before his death he enclosed the written charms in a 
strong iron box, with directions that no one was to dare to open it 
except the eldest son of an eldest son in a direct line from 

Some people pretend that they have read the charms ; and one 
of them has the strange power to make every one in the house 
begin to dance, and they can never cease dancing till another spell 
has been said over them. 

But the guardian of the iron box is the only one who knows 
the magic secret of the spell, and he exacts a good price before he 
utters it, and so reveals or destroys the witchcraft of the dance. 

The juice of deadly night-shade distilled, and given in a drink, 
will make the person who drinks believe whatever you will to 
tell him, and choose him to believe. 

A bunch of mint tied round the wrist is a sure remedy for dis- 
orders of the stomach. 

A sick person's bed must be placed north and south, not cross 

Nettles gathered in a churchyard and boiled down for a drink 
have the power to cure dropsy. 

The touch from the hand of a seventh son cures the bite of a 
mad dog. This is also an Italian superstition. 

The hand of a dead man was a powerful incantation, but it was 
chiefly used by women. The most eminent fairy women always 
collected the mystic herbs for charms and cures by the light of a 
candle held by a dead man's hand at midnight or by the full 

When a woman first takes ill in her confinement, unlock instantly 
every press and drawer in the house, but when the child is born, 
lock them all up again at once, for if care is not taken the fairies 
will get in and hide in the drawers and presses, to be ready to 
steal away the little mortal baby when they get the opportunity, 
and place some ugly, wizened changeling in the cradle beside th® 


poor mother. Therefore every key should be turned, every lock 
made fast ; and if the fairies are hidden inside, let them stay 
there until all danger is over for the baby by the proper pre- 
cautions being taken, such as a red coal set under the cradle, and 
a branch of mountain ash tied over it, or of the alder-tree, accord- 
ing to the sex of the child, for both trees have mystic virtues, pro- 
bably because of the ancient superstition that the first man was 
created from an alder-tree, and the first woman from the mountain 

The fairies, however, are sometimes successful in carrying off a 
baby, and the mother finds in the morning a poor weakly little 
sprite in the cradle in place of her own splendid child. But 
should the mortal infant happen to grow up ugly, the fairies send 
it back, for they love beauty above all things ; and the fairy chiefs 
greatly desire a handsome mortal wife, so that a handsome girl 
must be well guarded, or they will carry her off. The children 
of such unions grow up beautiful and clever, but are also wild, 
reckless and extravagant. They are known at once by the beauty 
of their eyes and hair, and they have a magic fascination that no 
one can resist, and also a fairy gift of music and song. 

If a person is bitten by a dog, the dog must be killed, whether 
mad or not, for it might become mad ; then, so also would the 
person who had been touched by the saliva of the animal. 

If, by accident, you find the back tooth of a horse, carry it about 
with you as long as you live, and you will never want money j 
but it must be found by chance, 

"When a family has been carried off by fever, the house where 
they died may be again inhabited with safety if a certain number 
of sheep are driven in to sleep there for three nights. 

An iron ring worn on the fourth finger was considered effective 
against rheumatism by the Irish peasantry from ancient times. 

Paralysis is cured by stroking, but many forms and mystic incan- 
tations are also used during the process ; and only certain persons 
have the power in the hands that can effect a cure by the magic 
of the stroke. 

The seed of docks tied to the left arm of a woman will prevent 
her being barren. 

A spoonful of aqua vitm sweetened with sugar, and a little 
grated bread added, that it may not annoy the brain or the liver, 
will preserve from lethargy and apoplexy and all cold diseases. 


The juice of carrots boiled down is admirable for purifying the 

Clippings of the hair and nails of a child tied up in a linen cloth 
and placed under the cradle will cure convulsions. 

Tober Maire (Mary's well), near Dundalk, has a great reputation 
for cures. And thousands used to visit it on Lady Day for weak 
eyesight, and the lowness of heart. Nine times they must go 
round the well on their knees, always westward. Then drink a 
cup of the water, and not only are they cured of their ailment, but 
are as free from sin as the angels in heaven. 

When children are pining away, they are supposed to be fairy- 
struck ; and the juice of twelve leaves of foxglove may be given : 
also in cases of fever the same. 

m A. bunch of mint tied round the wrist keeps off infection and 

There is a well near the Boyne where King James washed his 
sword after the battle, and ever since the water has power to cure 
the king's evil. 

When a seventh son is born, if an earth-worm is put into the 
infant's hand and kept there till it dies, the child will have power 
to charm away all diseases. 

The ancient arrowheads, called elf-stones by the people, are 
used as charms to guard the cattle. 

It is not safe to take an unbaptized child in your arms without 
making the sign of the cross over it. 

It is unlucky to give a coal of fire out of the house before the 
child is baptized. And a piece of iron should be sewn in the 
infant's clothes, and kept there till after the baptism. 

Take a piece of bride-cake and pass it three times through a 
wedding-ring, then sleep on it, and you will see in a dream the 
face of your future spouse. 

It is unlucky to accept a lock of hair, or a four-footed beast 
from a lover. 

People ought to remember that egg-shells are favourite retreats 
of the fairies, therefore the judicious eater should always break 


the shell after use, to prevent the fairy sprite from taking up his 
lodgment therein. 

Finvarra, the king of the fairies of the west, keeps up the most 
friendly relations with most of the best families of Galway, 
especially with the Kirwans of Castle Haeket, for Finvarra is a 

fentleman, every inch of him, and the Kirwans always leave out 
egs of wine for him at night of the best Spanish wine. And in 
return, it is said, the wine vaults at Castle Hacket are never empty, 
though the wine flows freely for all comers. 

If a living worm is put into the hand of a child before he is 
baptized, and kept there till the worm is dead, that child will 
have power in after life to cure all diseases to which children are 

After being cured from a sickness, take an oath never to comb 
the hair on a Friday, that so the memory of the grace received 
may remain by this sign till your death. Or whenever you first 
see the new moon, kneel down and say an ave and a pater j this 
also is for memory of grace done. 

People born in the morning cannot see spirits or the fairy 
world ; but those born at night have power over ghosts, and can 
see the spirits of the dead. 

Unbaptized children are readily seized by the fairies. The best 
preventive is a little salt tied up in the child's dress when it is 
laid to sleep in the cradle. 

If pursued at night by an evil spirit, or the ghost of one dead, 
and you hear footsteps behind you, try and reach a stream of 
running water, for if you can cross it, no devil or ghost will be 
able to follow you. 

If a chair fall as a person rises, it is an unlucky omen. 

The fortunate possessor of the four-leaved shamrock will have 
luck in gambling, luck in racing, and witchcraft will have no 
power over him. But he must always carry it about his person, 
and never give it away, or even show it to another. 

A purse made from a weasel's skin will never want for money ; 
but the purse must be found, not given or made. 

If a man is ploughing, no one should cross the path of the 


It is unlucky to steal a plough, or take anything by stealth 
from a smith's forge. 

"When yawning make the sign of the cross instantly over the 
mouth, or the evil spirit will make a rush down and take up his 
abode within you. 

Never give away water before breakfast, nor milk while churn- 
ing is going on, 

A married woman should not walk upon graves, or her child 
will have a club-foot. If by accident she treats on a grave she 
must instantly kneel down, say a prayer, and make the sign of the 
cross on the sole of her shoe three times over. 

Never take an infant in your arms, nor turn your head to look 
at it without saying, " God bless it." This keeps away the fatal 
influence of the Evil Eye. 

If a bride steers a boat on the day of her marriage, the winds 
and the waves have no power over it, be the tempest ever so fierce 
or the stream ever so rapid. 

Do not put out a light while people are at supper, or there will 
be one less at the table before the year is out. 

Never give any salt or fire while churning is going on. To 
upset the salt is exceedingly unlucky and a bad omen ; to avert 
evil gather up the salt and fling it over the right shoulder into 
the fire, with the left hand. 

If you want a person to win at cards, stick a crooked pin in 
his coat. 

The seventh son of a seventh son has power over all diseases, 
and can cure them by laying on of hands 5 and a son born after 
his father's death has power over fevers. 

There is one hour in every day when whatever you wish will 
be granted, but no one knows what that hour is. It is all a chance 
if we come on it. There is also one hour in the day when ghost* 
seers can see spirits — but only one — at no other time have they 
the power, yet they never know the hour, the coming of it is 
a mystery. 

In some parts of Ireland the people, it is said, on first seeing 
the new moon, fall on their knees and address her in a loud voice 


with tlie prayer : " moon ; leave us well as tliou Last f ound 

It is unlucky to meet a cat, a dog, or a woman, when going out 
first in the morning ; but unlucky above all is it to meet a woman 
with red hair the first thing in the morning when going on a 
journey, for her presence brings ill-luck and certain evil. 

It is unlucky to pass under a hempen rope ; the person who 
does so will die a violent death, or is fated to commit an evil act 
in after life, so it is decreed, 

The cuttings of your hair should not be thrown where birds can 
find them ; for they will take them to build their nests, and then 
you will have headaches all the year after. 

The cause of a club-foot is this — The mother stood on a cross 
in a churchyard before her child was born — so evil came. 

To cure fever, place the patient on the sandy shore when the 
tide is coming in, and the retreating waves will carry away the 
disease and leave him well. 

To make the skin beautiful, wash the face in May dew upon 
May morning just at sunrise. 

If the palm of the hand itches you will be getting money ; if 
the elbow, you will be changing beds ; if the ear itches and is red 
and hot, some one is speaking ill of you. 

If three drops of water are given to an infant before it ia 
baptized, it will answer the first three questions put to it. 

To know the name of the person you are destined to marry, put 
a snail on a plate of flour — cover it over and leave it all night ; 
in the morning the initial letter of the name will be found traced 
on the flour by the snail. 

If one desires to know if a sick person will recover, take nine 
smooth stones from the running water ; fling them over the right 
Ahoulder, then lay them in a turf fire to remain untouched for one 
night. If the disease is to end fatally the stones in the morning 
Will emit a clear sound like a bell when struck together. 

A whitethorn stick is a very unlucky companion on a journey'; 
but a hazel switch brings good luck and has power over the 


A hen that crows is very unlucky and should be killed ; very 
often the hen is stoned, for it is believed that she is bewitched by 
the fairies* 

It is asserted that on Christmas morning the ass kneels down 
in adoration of Christ, and if a person can manage to touch the 
cross on the back of the animal at that particular moment the 
wish of his heart will be granted, whatever it may be. 

When taking possession of a new house, every one should bring 
in some present, however trifling, but nothing should be taken 
away, and a prayer should be said in each corner of your bed- 
room, and some article of your clothing be deposited there at the 
same time. 


Place two keys on a sieve, in the form of a cross. Two men 
hold the sieve, while a third makes the sign of the cross on the 
forehead of the suspected party, and calls out his name loudly, 
three times over. If innocent, the keys remain stationary ; but if 
guilty, the keys revolve slowly round the sieve, and then there is 
no doubt as to who is the thief. 


4t Star of Heaven, beloved of the Lord, drive away the foul 
constellation that has slain the people with the wound of dreadful 
death. Star of the Sea, save us from the poison-breath that 
kills, from the enemy that slays in the night. Amen*" 


w O aged old woman of the grey locks, may eight hundred 
blessings twelve times over be on thee ! Mayest thou be free 
from desolation, woman of the aged frame ! And may many 
tears fall on thy grave." 


Take nine leaves of the male crowfoot, plucked on a Sunday 
sight; bruise them on a stone that never was moved since the 


world began, and never can be moved. Mix with salt and spittle, 
and apply the plaster to the ear of the sick beast. Repeat this 
three times for a man, and twice for a horse. 


Pluck ten blades of yarrow, \e6D nine, and cast the tenth away 
for tithe to the spirits. Put the nine in your stocking, under the 
heel of the right foot, when going a journey, and the Evil On© 
will have no power over you. 


(fbom a manuscbipt of date 1770.) 

Two ounces of cochineal, one ounce of gentian root, two drachms 
of saffron, two drachms of snakeroot, two drachms of salt of worm- 
wood, and the rind of ten oranges, The whole to be steeped iu a 
quart of brandy, and kept for use. 


Six ounces of rue, four ounces of garlic, two ounces of Venice 
treacle, and two ounces of pewter filings. Boil for two hours in 
a close vessel, in two quarts of ale, and give a spoonful fasting 
each morning till the cure is effected. The liquor is to be strained 
before use* 


Never tell your dreams fasting, and always tell them first to a 
woman called Mary, 

To dream of a hearse with white plumes is a wedding j but to 
dream of a wedding is grief, and death will follow. 

To dream of a woman kissing you is deceit ; but of a man, 
friendship ; and to dream of a horse is exceedingly lucky. 

To dream of a priest is bad ; even to dream of the devil is 
better. Remember, also, either a present or a purchase from a 
priest is unlucky. 



The fairy doctors are generally females. Old women, especially, 
are considered to have peculiar mystic and supernatural power. 
They cure chiefly by charms and incantations, transmitted by 
tradition through many generations ; and by herbs, of which they 
have a surprising knowledge. 

The fairies have an aversion to the sight of blood ; ind the 
peasants, therefore, have a great objection to being bled, lest " the 
good people " would be angry. Besides, they have much more 
fai:h in charms and incantations than in any dispensary doctor 
that ever practised amongst them. 


The charms by crystals are of great antiquity in Ireland— a 
mode of divination, no doubt, brought from the East by the early 
wandering tribes. Many of these stones have been found through- 
out the country, and are held in great veneration. They are 
generally globular, and appear to have been originally set in royal 
sceptres or sacred shrines. A very ancient crystal globe of this 
kind, with miraculous curative powers, is still to be seen at Cur- 
rahmore, the seat of the Marquis of Waterford, and it is believed 
to have been brought from the Holy Land bv one of the Le 
Poers, who had it as a gift from Godfrey de Bouillon. The ball 
is of rock crystal, a little larger than an orange, and is circled 
round the middle by a silver band. It is still constantly borrowed 
by the people to effect cures upon cattle suffering from murrain 
or other distempers. This is done by placing the ball in a run- 
ning stream, through which the cattle are driven backwards and 
forwards many times. 

The peasants affirm that the charm never fails in success, and 
the belief in its miraculous powers is so widespread that people 
from the most distant parts of Ireland send to Currahmore to 
borrow it. Even to this day the faith in its magic power con- 
tinues unabated, and requests for the loan come from every 
quarter. The Marquis of Waterford leaves it in the care of his 
steward, and it is freely lent to all comers ; but to the credit of 
the people it may be noted, that the magic crystal is always 
brought back to Currahmore with the most scrupulous care.* 

* Extract from a letter by the Marchioness of Waterford, on the Currah-? 
more Crystal. 




Should a person be bewitched hy an evil neighbour, he must 
take two black cocks, lay a charm over the head of one and let it 
loose ; but the other must be boiled down, feathers and all, and 
eaten. Then the malice of the neighbour will have no effect on 
him or his. 

Ancient Egypt and Greece had likewise superstitions on the 
subject of sacrificing a cock. Even the last words of Socrates had 
reference to this subject. It is remarkable also that in the 
Christian legend it was a cock that testified indignantly by his 
crowing against Peter's treachery and cowardice, and aroused in 
him the remorse that was evidenced by his tears. 


It is on Fridays that the fairies have the most power to work 
evil ; therefore Friday is an unlucky day to begin work, or to go 
on a journey, or to have a wedding ; for the spirits are then pre- 
sent everywhere, and hear and see everything that is going on, 
and will mar and spoil all they can, just out of malice and 
jealousy of the mortal race. 

It is then they strike cattle with their elfin arrows, lame a 
horse, steal the milk, and carry off the handsome children, leaving 
an ugly changeling in exchange, who is soon known to be a 
fairy sprite by its voracious appetite, without any natural increase 
in growth. 

This superstition makes the peasant-women often very cruel 
towards weakly children; and the trial by fire is sometimes 
resorted to in order to test the nature of the child who is sus- 
pected of being a changeling. For this purpose a fairy woman is 
usually sent for, who makes a drink for the little patient of cer- 
tain herbs of whose power she alone has the secret knowledge ; 
and a childless woman is considered the best to make the potion. 
Should there be no improvement in the child after the treatment 
with herbs, then the witch-women sometimes resort to terrible 
measures to test the fairy nature of the sufferer. 

A child who was suspected of being a changeling, because he 
was wasted and thin and always restless and fretful, was ordered 
by the witch-woman to be placed for three nights on a shovel out- 
side the door from sunset to sunrise, during which time he was 
given foxglove to chew, and cold water was flung over him to 
banish the fire-devil. The screams of the child at night were 
frightful, calling on his mother to come and take him in ; but the 
fairy doctor told the mother not to fear ; the fairies were certainly 


tormenting him, but by the third night their power would cease, 
and the child would be quite restored. However, on.the third 
night the poor little child lay dead. 


Augubies and prophecies of coming fate may also be obtained 
from the flight of birds, the motion of the winds, from sneezing, 
dreams, lots, and the signs from a verse of the Psalter or Gospels. 
The peasantry attach great importance to the first verses of St. 
Johns Gospel, and maintain that when the cock crows in the 
morning he is repeating these verses (from the 1st to the 14th), 
and if we understood the language of animals and birds, we could 
often hear them quoting these same verses. 

A charm against sickness is an amulet worn round the neck, 
enclosing a piece of paper, on which is written the first three 
verses of St. John's Gospel. 


To stick a penknife in the mast of a boat when sailing is most 

To meet a man with red hair, or a woman with a red petticoat, 
the first thing in the morning. 

To kill the robin redbreast. 

To pass a churn and not give a helping hand. 

To meet a funeral and not go back three steps with it. 

To have a hare cross your path before sunrise. 

To take away a lighted sod on May days or churning days ; for 
fire is the most sacred of all things, and you take away the bless- 
ing from the house along with it. 

The Irish are very susceptible to omens. They say, "Beware 
of a childless woman who looks fixedly at your child." 

Fire is the holiest of all things. "Walk three times round a fire 
on St. John's Eve, and you will be safe from disease for all that 

It is particularly unlucky to meet a red-haired man the. first 
thing in the morning. There is a tradition that Judas Iscariot 



had red hair, and it is from this the superstitious dread of the 
evil interference of a red-haired man may have originated. 

Never begin work on a Friday. 

Never remove from a house or leave a situation on Saturday. 

Never begin to make a dress on Saturday, or the wearer will die 
within the year. 

Never mend a rent in a dress while on, or evil and malicious 
reports will be spread about you. 

Some days are unlucky to certain families — as Tuesday to the 
Tudors. Henry VIII., Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth all died 
upon a Tuesday. 

To throw a slipper after a party going a journey is lucky. Also 
to breakfast by candle-light on Christmas morning. 

It is fatal at a marriage to tie a knot in a red handkerchief, 
and only an enemy would do it. To break the spell the handker- 
chief should be burned. 

The first days of the year and of the week are the luckiest. 
Never begin a journey on a Friday or Saturday, nor move from 
your residence, nor change a situation. Never cut out a dress or 
begin to make it on a Friday, nor fix a marriage, for of all days 
the fairies have the most malific power on a Friday. They are 
present then, and hear all that is said, therefore beware of speak- 
ing ill of them, for they will work some evil if offended. 

Never pay away money on the first Monday of the year, or you 
will lose your luck in gaining money all the year after. 

Presents may be given on New Year's Day, but no money should 
be paid away. 

Those who marry in autumn will die in spring. 

The yew-tree, the ash, and the elder-tree were sacred. The 
willow has a mystery in it of sound. The harp of King Brian- 
Boru was made of willow-wood. 

"When a servant leaves her place, if her mistress gives her a 
piece of bread let her nut by some of it carefully, for as long as 
she has it good luck will follow her. 



Gather foxglove, raspberry leaves, wild marjoram, mint, 
camomile, and valerian; mix them with butter made on May 
Day, and let the herbs also be gathered on May Day. Boil them 
all together with honey ; then rub the vessel into which the bees 
should gather, both inside and out, with the mixture ; place it in 
the middle of a tree, and the bees will soon come. Foxglove or 
" fairy fingers " is called " the great herb" from its wondrous pro- 



It is ill luck when going with a funeral to meet a man on a white 
horse. No matter how^ high the rank of the rider may be, the 
people must seize the reins and force him to turn back and join 
the procession at least for a few yards. 

The three most powerful divinations are by fire, by water, and 
by clay. These are the three great powers — the power that 
ascends, which is fire ; the power that falls, which is water ; and 
the power that lies level on the earth, and has the mystery of the 
dead, which is clay. 

If a short cut should be taken while carrying a corpse to the 
grave the dead will be disturbed in the coffin, for it is a slight and 
an insult to the corpse. 

When a death was expected it was usual to have a good deal 
of bread ready baked in the house in order that the evil spirits 
might be employed eating it, and so let the soul of the dying 
depart in peace. Twelve candles stuck in clay should also be 
placed round the dying. 

If two funerals meet at the same churchyard, the last corpse 
that enters will have to supply the dead with water till the next 
corpse arrives. 

Never take a child in your arms after being at a wake where a 
corpse was laid out unless you first dip your hands in holy water. 

The moment the soul leaves the body the evil spirits try to seize 
it, but the guardian angel fights against them, and those around 


must pray earnestly that the angel may conquer. After death 
the body must not be disturbed, nor should the funeral chant bo 
raised for one hour. 

There are many superstitions prevalent in the Western Islands 
which are implicitly believed and acted on. Fishermen when 
going to sea must always enter the boat by the right side, no 
matter how inconvenient. 

A coal of fire thrown after the fisherman brings him good 

A sick person must not be visited on a Friday, nor by any 
person who has just quitted a wake and looked upon the dead. 
The hair and nails of a sick person must not be cut till after 

If a corpse falls to the ground the most fatal events will happen 
to the family. 

The lid must not be nailed on the coffin of a new-born child, or 
the mother that bore it will never have another. 


One day a coastguard man was out in his boat with some of the 
islanders when a terrible storm arose with thunder and lightning. 
The poor people fell on their knees and prayed devoutly, but the 
man laughed at them, called them fools and cowards, and said he 
also could make lightning and thunder as well as the God they 
were praying to. So he immediately prepared a small cannon he 
had on board, and set a match to the powder and fired it off. 
But before the echo died away a stream of lightning passed over 
him, and he fell dead in the boat a blackened corpse — a dreadful 
sign of the vengeance of heaven on his blasphemous daring. 


If a false oath is taken upon a relic the vengeance of God falls 
upon the swearer, and the doom that few can bear and live rests 
upon him and upon all his descendants even to the seventh genera- 
tion. They are shunned by the people, and looked upon as un- 
lucky and accursed. There are some living even now from whom 
the curse of the past is not lifted, because the seventh generation 
has not yet passed by f 



Many saints in old time used to come and take up their abode in 
the wild desolate Western Islands for the rest and sanctity of 
solitude, and innumerable evidences of their presence still remain 
in the ancient ruins of the so-called cells or churches built in the 
rudest form, but always placed in a picturesque locality beside a 
well, which ever since has been held sacred, and no woman is 
allowed to wash her feet in the water. 

In one of these islands is a stone bed called " The Bed of the 
Holy Ghost," and many people go from the mainland to lie anight 
in this bed, though the sea is always rough and dangerous, 
believing that it heals all diseases, and It brings good luck to all, 
and to women the blessing of children. 

If the lark sings on St. Bridget's Day it is a good omen, and a 
sign of fine weather. And whoever hears it the first thing in the 
morning will have good luck in all he does for that whole day. 
St. Bridget was granted by the Lord to have every second Sunday 
fine so that she might preach to the converts that came to her. 

Then St. Patrick greatly desired that his day should also be fine 
so that the people might gather together in remembrance of him, 
and this also was granted. So from that time forth the Saints' 
Day, the 17th of March, is always fine, for so it was decreed from 
the ancient times when he was upon earth. 

On St. Patrick's Day it is the usage in the islands to affix large 
crosses made of straw and flowers on the door-posts, and a black 
cock is sacrificed in honour of the saint, though no one can tell 
why it is considered necessary that blood should be spilt, except 
that the idea of sacrifice is found in all religions and rituals of 
worship. At first the object most loved or most prized was 
sacrificed — a child, or a costly jewel. Then the human sacrifice 
began to be replaced by the offering of an animal, who was made 
the medium of expiation. And the god was satisfied so that blood 
was spilled to purify from sin. 

It is remarkable that relics of this ancient ritual of sacrifice can 


still be found even in the enlightened households of this advanced 
nineteenth century. An ox is still slaughtered at Christmas, 
though Baal is forgotten ; and a lamb is sacrificed at Easter, as 
the Druids offered the firstlings of the flock to the Sun-god ; while 
a goose is slain on St. Michael's Day as a burnt-offering to the 


When St. Patrick was one time amongst the Pagan Irish they 
grew very fierce and seemed eager to kill him. Then his life 
being in great danger, he kneeled down before them and prayed 
to God for help and for the conversion of their souls. And the 
fervour of the prayer was so great that as the saint rose up the 
mark of his knees was left deep in the stone, and when the people 
saw the miracle they believed. 

Now when he came to the next village the people said if he 
performed some wonder for them they also would believe and 
pray to his God. So St. Patrick drew a great circle on the 
ground and bade them stand outside it ; and then he prayed, and 
lo ! the water rushed up from the earth, and a well pure and 
bright as crystal filled the circle. And the people believed and 
were baptized. 

The well can be seen to this day, and is called Tober-na-Lauer 
(The Well of the Book), because St. Patrick placed his owu 
prayer-book in the centre of the circle before the water rose. 


There is a lake in one of the Galtee mountains where there is a 
great serpent chained to a rock, and he may be heard constantly 
crying out, " O Patrick, is the Luan, or Monday, long from us ? '* 
For when St. Patrick cast this serpent into the lake he bade him 
be chained to the rock till La-an-Luan (The Day of Judgment). 
But the serpent mistook the word, and thought the saint meant 
Luan, Monday. 

So he still expects to be freed from one Monday to another, and 
the clanking of his chains on that day is awful to hear as he strives 
to break them and get free. 

In another lake there is a huge-winged creature, it is said, 
which escaped the power of St. Patrick, and when he gambols in 
the water such storms arise that no boat can withstand the tumult 
of the waves. 

m. fcAT&ICK. 21? 


One day the two daughters of the King of Meath, named Ethna 
and Fedalma, went down to the river to bathe, and there they 
beheld St. Patrick and his band of converts all draped in white 
robes, for they were celebrating morning prayers. And the 
princesses seeing strange men in white garments thought they 
were of the race of the male fairies, the Daine-Sidhe. And they 
questioned them. Then St. Patrick expounded the truth to them, 
and the maidens asked him many questions: "Who is your God? 
Is He handsome ? Are His daughters as handsome as we are ? 
Is He rich ? Is He young or aged ? Is He to die, or does He 
live for ever ? " 

Now St. Patrick having satisfied them on all these points the 
maidens, Ethna and Fedalma, were baptized, and became zealous 
workers for the Christian cause. 


St. Patrick went on to Tara, and there he lit the Paschal fire 
and celebrated the Easter mysteries. But the Druids were wroth, 
for it was against their ordinances for any fire to be lit until th» 
chief Druid himself had kindled^ the sacred fire. Therefore they 
sought to poison St. Patrick, and a cupful of poison was given 
him by one of the Druids ; but the danger was revealed to him, 
and thereupon he pronounced certain words over the liquor, and 
whoever pronounceth these words over poison shall receive no 
injury from it. He also then composed the prayer, " In nomine 
Dei Patris," and recited it over the cup of poison. 

The number of companions with whom St. Patrick travelled 
through the country was seven score and ten, and before his time 
only three classes of persons were allowed to speak in public in 
Erin — the chronicler, to relate events ; the poet, to eulogize and 
satirize ; and the Brehon, to pass judgment according to the law. 
But after St. Patrick's arrival every utterance of the three profes- 
sions was subject to " the men of the white language " — that is, 
the Gospel — and only such utterances were allowed as did not 
clash with the Gospel. 


In ancient Pagan times in Ireland the poets were supposed to 
possess the gift of prophecy, and by certain means could throw 


themselves into a state in which they had lucid vision of coming 
events. This state, called Imbas for Osna, was produced by in- 
cantations and the offering of the flesh of a red pig, a dog, or a 
cat to their idols. Then the poet, laying the two palms of his 
hands on his two cheeks, lay down and slept ; his idol gods being 
beside him. And when he awoke he could see all things and fore- 
tell all things. He could make verses with the ends of his fingers, 
and repeat the same without studying, and in this way proved his 
right to be chief poet at the court of the king. Also he laid his 
staff upon the head of a person, and thus he found out his name, 
and the name of his father and mother, and all unknown things 
that were proposed to him. And this prophetic power was also 
obtained by Imbas for Osna, though a different kind of offering 
was made to the idol. 

But Patrick abolished these practices, and declared that who- 
ever used them should enjoy neither heaven nor earth ; and he 
substituted for them the Corus Cerda (the Law of Poetry), in 
which no offering was made to demons ; for the profession of the 
poet, he said, was pure, and should not be subject to the power 
of the devil. He left to the poets, however, the gift of extem- 
poraneous recital, because it was acquired through great know- 
ledge and diligent study, but all other rites he strictly forbade to 
the poets of Erin. 


As a proof of the magnetic, lucid vision obtained by the great 
ollamhs of poetry, it is recorded of the blind poet, Louad I)all, 
that his attendants having brought him the skull of an animal 
found upon the strand, they asked him to declare its history. 
And thereupon placing the end of his wand upon the skull, he 
beheld with the inner vision, and said — 

" The tempestuous waters have destroyed Breccan, and this is 
the skull of his lapdog ; and but little of greatness now remains, 
for Breccan and his people have perished in the w r aves." 

And this was " divination by the staff " — a power possessed only 
by the chief poets, and by none else. 


The story of Breccan is related in Cormac's Glossary, ne was 
a merchant who traded between Ireland and Scotland with fifty 
corracles. Now there was a great whirlpool at Rathlin Island 
caused by the meeting of the seas, and they formed a caldron 
vast enough to swallow all Ireland, And it happened on a time 

ST. PATRICK:. 219 

that Breccan and all his corracles were lost and engulfed in this 
caldron. Not a man was left to tell the tale of how or where 
they had perished. Thus it was that the skull of a small animal 
being discovered on the beach, it was brought to the blind poet, 
who laying his staff on it obtained the inner vision by which he 
revealed the fate of Breccan and his fifty corracles. 


Now St. Patrick left the poets all their rights of divination by 
wisdom, and all their ancient rights over story-telling with the 
music of the harp, three hundred and fifty stories being allowed 
to the chief poet. He also secured just judgments for their pro- 
fessional rights ; so that if land was mentioned in their songs as 
having been walled and trenched by them, that was considered to 
be sufficient legal evidence of title to the soil. 

But what they received of St. Patrick was better, he affirmed, 
than all the evil rites to devils which they had abandoned ; along 
with the profane practice of magic by the two palms, called Imbas 
for Osna, by which lucid vision and the spirit of prophecy was 
supposed to come on them after invocations to idols and demons 
— all of which evil practices St. Patrick abolished, but left to the 
poets the skilled hand in music and the fluent tongue in recita- 
tion ; for which none can equal the Bards of Ireland throughout 
all the world. 

The ogham writing on the poet's staff is mentioned in very old 
manuscripts as in use in the Pagan period, before St. Patrick's 
time, though no specimen of ogham writing has yet been found of 
earlier date than the Christian era. 

St. Patrick introduced Latin and the Latin letters, which super- 
seded ogham. And after his time Latin was taught very gener- 
ally in the Irish schools. 

St. Patrick also confirmed as right and proper for observance, 
whatever was just in the Brehon laws, so as it was not at variance 
with the law of Christ, for the people had been guided by the 
Brehon laws from all antiquity, and it was not easy to overthrow 
them. Besides, many or most of them were framed with strict 
regard to justice and morality. 

"When St. Patrick was dying, an angel of the Lord was sent to 
him, who announced to the great and holy saint that God had 
granted this favour to his prayers — namely, that his jurisdiction 
over the Church was ordained to be for ever at Armagh; and 
that Patrick, as the Apostle of Ireland, should be the judge of all 
the Irish at the last day, and none other, according to the promise 


made to the other apostles, u Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones 
judging the tribes of Israel." 


This eminent saint died at the early age of thirty-three ; and it 
is said that his death was caused by the prayers of the other 
saints of Ireland, who were jealous of his power and fame for 
sanctity. St. Ciaron knowing that death was coming upon him, 
composed a verse which has been preserved as an appeal against 
the cruel fate that ended his life while he was yet in his prime. 
And the pathos of the quatrain is very tender and natural — 

" I ask is it right, O King of Stars, 
To reap a cornfield before it is ripe ? 
It is eating fruit before the time, 
It is plucking the blossom from a hazel when it is white." 


Si. Martin was a bad man before his conversion, and, above all, 
was exceedingly close-fisted, as they say, to the poor ; giving 
nothing and grasping all. So he was very rich but hated by 
every one. 

One day, when going out, he charged the servant to have a fine 
batch of loaves ready made and baked by the time he returned. 
While she was kneading the dough in came a poor man and 
begged for some as he was hungry ; but she told him she dare not 
give away anything or the master would beat her. Still the poor 
man begged the harder, and at last she gave him dough enough 
for a couple of loaves. However, when the girl's back was 
turned, he threw the dough into the oven and went his way with- 
out a word. 

Now when the dough was ready, the girl opened the oven to 
put in the loaves, but, behold, it was already quite full of 
baked bread, and would hold no more. So when Martin came 
home she told him all the truth ; and his heart smote him, 
and he cried out, "An Angel of the Lord has been here; 
God has sent His messenger to rebuke me of my sins ! " And 
he ran out to search for the man along the road, and at last 
saw him a great way off. Then Martin flung off his coat that he 
might run the faster ; and when he came up to the man he fell on 


his knees before him on the ground, and cried out, u Oh, my Lord, 
I repent me of mj sins ; pray to God for me, for I know you are 
His angel." And from that moment Martin's heart was changed, 
and the devil left him j and he became a true saint and servant of 
God, and, above all, the saint and patron of the poor. 

Nevertheless, St. Bridget was offended with St. Martin, because 
she thought he did not receive her with sufficient hospitality and 
consideration. Perhaps some of the old stinginess of nature still 
clung to him. And she thus pronounced her malediction over him — 

" Oh, little man, the sea-wave shall come up over thy house, and 
ihy name shall lie in ashes, while my name and fame shall be 
glorious all over the world." 

And this was fulfilled ; for the sea actually broke in and covered 
the saint's dwelling ; and the house of St. Martin can still be seen 
low down beneath the waves, but if any one tries to reach it the 
house fades away into the mist and is seen no more. 

There is an old superstition still observed by the people, that 
blood must be spilt on St. Martin's Day ; so a goose is killed, or a 
black cock, and the blood is sprinkled over the floor and on the 
threshold. And some of the flesh is given to the first beggar that 
comes by, in the name and in honour of St. Martin. 

In the Arran Isles St. Martin's Day is observed with particular 
solemnity, and it was held necessary, from ancient times, to spill 
blood on the ground in honour of the saint. For this purpose a 
cock was sacrificed ; but if such could not be procured people have 
been known to cut their finger in order to draw blood, and let it 
fall upon the earth. The custom arose in this way : — St. Martin, 
having given away all his goods to the poor, was often in want of 
food, and one day he entered a widow's house and begged for 
something to eat. The widow was poor, and having no food in 
the house, she sacrificed her young child, boiled it, and set it 
before the saint for supper. Having eaten, and taken his de- 
parture, the woman went over to the cradle to weep for her lost 
child ; when lo ! there he was, lying whole and well, in a beautiful 
sleep, as if no evil had ever happened to him; and to com- 
memorate this miracle and from gratitude to the saint, a sacrifice 
of some living thing is made yearly in his honour. The blood is 
poured or sprinkled on the ground, and along the door-posts, and 
both within and without the threshold, and at the four corners of 
each room in the house. 

For this symbol of purification by blood the rich farmers sacrifice 
a sheep ; while the poorer people kill a black cock or a white hen, 
and sprinkle the blood according to ancient usage. Afterwards 
the whole family dine upon the sacrificial victim. 

In some places it was the custom for the master of the house to 
draw a cross on the arm of each member of the family and mark 
it out in blood. This was a very sacred sign which no fairy or 


evil spirit, were they ever so strong, could overcome ; and whoever 
was signed with the blood was safe. 

There is a singular superstition forbidding work of a certain 
kind to be done on St. Martin's Day, the 11th of November. No 
woman should spin on that day ; no miller should grind his corn, 
and no wheel should be turned. And this custom was long held 
sacred, and is still observed in the Western Islands, 


At one time a certain leper came to St. Bridget to beg a cow 
from her. 

" "Which would you prefer ? " said the holy Bridget, " to be 
healed of your disease or to have the cow ? " 

"I would be healed," he answered. 

Then she touched him, and he became whole and went away 

After this Bridget's fame spread all over Ireland ; and a man of 
the Britons, and his son, came to be healed ; but she was at Mass, 
and sent to them to wait till Mass was over. 

Now the Britons are a hasty people, and the man said, il You 
healed your own people yesterday and you shall heal us to-day." 

Then Bridget came forth and prayed over them, and they were 

Another time, two lepers came to beg, and Bridget said, " I have 
but this one cow — take it between you and go in peace." 

But one leper was proud, and made answer : " 1 shall divide my 
goods with no man. Give me the cow and I shall go." 

And she gave it to him. 

Then the other leper said, " Give me your prayers, holy Bridget, 
I ask no more." 

And she gave him her blessing. And as he turned to depart a 
man came in, and offered a cow as a present to the holy woman. 

" Now the Lord has blessed you," she said to the humble leper. 
" Take this cow and depart to your home." 

So the man drove the cow before him, and presently came up 
with the proud leper just at the ford of the river. " Cross you first," 
said the proud leper, " there is not room for two," and the humble 
leper crossed in safety with his cow ; but when the other entered 
the ford, the river rose, and he and his cow were carried away and 
drowned, for the blessing of St. Bridget was not on him. 

Another time, two lepers came to be healed, and Bridget 
ordered one of them to wash the other ; which he did, and the 
man was healed, 

ST. KIEBAN. 223 

u Now/' slie said, " do to your comrade as he has done to you ; 
wash him with water that he may he made clean of his leprosy." 

" Oh, veiled woman," he answered, " why should I, that am 
clean now in body and limb, touch this filthy leper of the blue- 
grey skin ? Ask me not to do this thing." 

Then Bridget took water and washed the leper herself. Im- 
mediately the other who had been healed, cried out, " A fire is 
raging under my skin ; " and the disease came again on him worse 
than ever. Thus was he punished for his pride. 

The lark is sacred to St. Bridget because its song woke her 
. every morning to prayers, when she had service for the women 
who were her converts. 

The influence of St. Bridget remains a permanent power in 
Ireland even to this day, and she is much feared by the enemy of 
souls and the ill-doer. When Earl Strongbow was dying, he 
affirmed that he saw St. Bridget approaching his bed, and she 
struck him on the foot, and the wound she gave him mortified, 
and of this he died. This happened six hundred years after 
Bridget's death. 

St. Bridget, throughout her long life, held the highest position 
and dignity in the Irish Church. She erected a temple in Kildare, 
ordained bishops, and was head and chief of all the sacred virgins. 

She also held equal rank with the archbishop; if he had an 
episcopal chair {cathedra episcopalis), so St. Bridget had a virginal 
chair (cathedra puellaris), and was pre-eminent above all the 
abbesses of Ireland, or of the Scots, for sanctity and power. 


St. Kieban, also, did good service five hundred years after his 
death ; for when a great chief and his band plundered Olon- 
macnoise and carried off the jewels from the shrine, the spirit of 
St. Kieran was seen in the doorway, crosier in hand, striking at 
the plunderers ; and when they fled to their boat, St. Kieran raised 
up a strong wind that drove back the boat, and finally the chief 
robber was taken and put to death, having first confessed his 
crime, and testified as to St. Kieran's wrath against him, 


Tt Is related of St. Kevin that afte* he had been seven years at 
Glendalough, a weariness of life came over him, and a longing to 


bear the voice of man once more. Then Satan came to him in 
the form of an angel, "bright and beautiful, and persuaded him 
that he should quit the valley and travel abroad and see the 
world, while yet his youth was left to him. And St. Kevin was 
near yielding to the words of the tempter, when fortunately St. 
Munna came by that way, and he at once saw through the trick, 
and showed to St. Kevin that the advice was from the devil, and 
not from God. And St. Kevin promised St. Munna that he would 
never leave the valley till his death. However, God, not willing 
that the saint should eat his heart away in idleness, bade him build 
a monastery on the east of the lake, the place where the resur- 
rection was to be ; and he sent his angel to show him the exact 
But St. Kevin, when he saw the place so wild and rude, could 
not help telling the friendly angel that it was very rugged and 
difficult to build on ; and the stones were heavy and hard to be 
moved. Then the angel, to prevent any difficulty in the building, 
rendered the stones light and easy to move, and so the work of 
building went on to the glory of God j and St. Kevin rejoiced in 
the task set before him. 

And the monk who tells the story adds, that from that day in 
all the place which the angel appointed for the building, there is 
now no stone that cannot be lightly moved and easily worked all 
through the valley of Glendalougb. 


The Round Tower of Olonmacnoise was never finished, for the 
monks objected to the price demanded by the chief mason ; and one 
day that he was at the top of the tower, they said he should never 
come down till he lowered the price ; and they removed the 

Then he said, "It is easier to pull down than to build a 
tower," and he began to cast down stone by stone, so that he could 
descend in safety. 

On this the monks grew alarmed, and prayed him to desist and 
the price should be paid ; so he came down at their request, but 
would never again lay hand to the work, so the tower remains un- 
finished to this day. 

The first bells ever used in all Ireland were hung at Olonmac- 
noise, but the people of Athlone, being jealous, came at night to 
steal the bells, and succeeded in carrying them away in a boat. 
However, before they got out of sight of the church, the boat 
went down, and the bells were never recovered, though the river 
was dragged from Athlone to Shannon Bridge. 


At the seven churches of Clonmacnoise is to be seen the great 
cross of St. Kieran, beautifully carved of a stone not common to 
the country, called the Grecian stone, and if a woman can elasp 
the cross round with her arms she will never die in childbirth. 

At a pattern held there one time, a soldier from Athlone shot 
off the hand of a figure of St. Kieran, which was over the grand 
entrance, but returning home he fell from the boat, and was 
drowned in the very spot where the bells went down a hundred 
years before. 

At Saints' Island, in the Shannon, the ruins of a monastery, 
which was destroyed by King John, may still be seen. "When the 
monks, broken-hearted and beggared, were leaving their beautiful 
home, one of them kneeled down and prayed to God for forgive- 
ness of his enemies. Immediately a well of pure water sprang up 
where the monk had knelt ; and the water even to this day is 
held by the people to have the power to cure all diseases, if the 
soul of the patient, as he drinks of the well, is free from all 
malice and the desire of revenge upon those who may have injured 



In the old churchyard of the monastery at Saints' Island, there is 
an ancient black marble flagstone ; and the monks gave it power 
as A Revealer of Truth, and it is called the Cremave, or Swearing 

Any one suspected of sin or crime is brought here from the 
country round, and if the accused swears falsely, the stone has the 
power to set a mark upon him and his race for seven generations. 
But if no mark appears then he is known to be innocent ; and as 
long as the world lasts, the stone is to have this power, for so the 
monks decreed ; and with many holy and mystic ceremonies 
they gave it consecration, as the " Revealer of Truth." And 
though the English burned the monastery and defaced the altar 
and carried off the holy vessels, yet they had no power over the 
Cremave, or Swearing Stone, which remains to this day. 

Many years ago, so runs the tale, a murder was committed in 
the neighbourhood, and a certain man being suspected as the mur- 
derer, he was forced to go to the " clearing stone " ; for the people 
said, " If he is innocent, the Cremave will clear him ; and if 
guilty, let him suffer for his crime." 

So, on the appointed day, he went with his friends and the 



accuser to the Swearing Stone; and there he was met by the 
priest, who adjured him to speak the truth in presence of all the 
people and before the face of God. 

The man laid his hand upon the stone, and solemnly swore that 
he was innocent ; but instantly his right arm was shrivelled up, 
his feet failed, and he was carried home a miserable cripple, and 
so remained to the end of his life. 

Some weeks after a daughter was born to him, who bore across 
her forehead the impress of a bloody hand ; and every one of his 
descendants have some strange mark, by which the people know 
that the race is accursed to the seventh generation ; after which 
time the doom will be lifted, and the expiation made for the 
crime and the perjury will be considered sufficient by the Lord in 
heaven, who will then grant to the race pardon and grace at last. 


Another relic held in reverence for swearing on by an accused 
person is St. Einian's Dish. This was found about one hundred 
and fifty years ago, buried in the ruins of an old abbey. It is of 
silver with stones set in it, which, the people say, are the eyes of 
Christ looking at them while they swear. And when the dish is 
shaken a rattling noise is heard, which they believe is made by 
the Virgin Mary^s bones that are enclosed therein. 

Should a false oath be taken on the relic, the perjurer will at 
once be stricken by disease, and die before the year is out. And 
so great is the terror inspired by this belief, that men have fainted 
from fear when brought up to swear on it. This is done by 
placing the hand on the cross that is engraved in the centre of the 
dish, while the two eyes of Christ are fixed on the swearer who 
comes for clearance from guilt. 

The Ghar-Barra, or Crosier of St, Barry, is also a holy relic once 
overlaid with gold, on which it was the custom to take a clearing 
oath ; as the people held it in great reverence, and nothing was 
more dreaded than the consequence of a false oath on the Ghar- 
Barra. Once a man who swore falsely thereon had his mouth 
turned awry, and it so remained to his life's end, a proof of the 
saint's hatred for the sin of perjury. The relic is kept covered 
carefully with green cloth, and whoever is brought to take a 
clearing oath thereon must first lay down a small piece of silver 
for the guardian of the shrine, 



At Innis-Murry, Sligo, there is a large table-stone supported on 
eight perpendicular stones as a pedestal. And on the table are 
seventy-three stones, from Hvb to twenty inches in circumference, 
which have been lying there from the most ancient times j for to 
remove them would be at the peril of one's life. 

On these seventy-three stones all the anathematic spirit of the 
island is concentrated. If the islanders suffer any injury, real or 
supposed, they come and turn these stones, uttering a malediction 
over their enemy, and should he be guilty he will assuredly die, 
or suffer some calamity before the year is out. 

A Scripture reader, having boldly taken away one of these 
stones to show the folly of the superstition, was obliged to restore 
it and to quit the island, or his life would not have been safe. 

There is another stone on the island where alone can fires be 
lighted, should all the domestic fires become extinct, and the 
spark must be struck from the stone itself. 

Innis-Murry is a desolate spot, rarely visited ; the approach is 
so dangerous on account of the sunken rocks. The crops are 
scanty, and the soil is poor and light, growing only a short 
herbage of a spiral and sharp kind. Neither scythe nor sickle could 
be used in the entire island. Meal is unknown, and dairy produce 
scarcely to be had, as the grass can only support a few sheep ; but 
the islanders have fish in abundance, crabs, lobsters, and mackerel 

A traveller, who visited the island about fifty years ago, de- 
scribes the manners and mode of living as most primitive ; but the 
women have the reputation of being exceedingly virtuous, and 
the households are happy and well conducted. At that time a 
rude stone image was venerated by the people, called "Father 
Molosh/' but supposed to be an ancient pagan idol, probably 
Moloch. The priest, however, has since had it destroyed, 




Some persons are possessed naturally with the power of the Evil 
Stroke, but it is not considered at all so unlucky as the Evil Eye ; 
for the person who has it does not act from intentional malice but 
from necessity, from a force within him which acts without his 
will, and often to his deep regret : as in hurling matches, where a 
chance stroke of his may do serious injury, and even the dust of 
the earth raised by his foot has blinded his opponent for a week. 

One day a young man, while wrestling with another in play at 
a fair, where they met by chance, struck him on the arm, which 
immediately became fixed and powerless as stone. His friends 
brought him home, but nothing would restore the power of the 
arm or bring back the life ; so after he had lain in this state for 
three days his family sent for the young man who had struck 
him, to ask for his help. When he came and saw the arm stiff as 
stone, he anointed it all over with spittle, making also the sign of 
the cross ; and after some time the arm began to move again with 
life, and finally was quite restored. But the young man of the Evil 
Stroke was so dismayed at this proof of the strange power in him, 
that he would never again join in sports for fear of some unlucky 

The power, however, is sometimes very useful, as in the case of 
attack from a bull or a ferocious dog ; for a touch from the hand 
of a person possessing the Evil Stroke at once quells the madness 
in the animal, who will crouch down trembling with fear, and 
become as incapable of doing injury as if suddenly and powerfully 

But the power does not come by volition, only at intervals ; 
and the person possessing it does not himself know the moment 
when it can be effectively exercised. 

"Women, also, have the mysterious gift of this strange occult 
force, and one young girl was much dreaded in the country 
in consequence ; for anything struck by her, beast or man, became 
instantly paralyzed, as if turned to stone. One day, at a hurling 
match, she threw a lump of clay at the winner in anger, because 


her own lover had failed to win the prize. Immediately the 
young victor fell down stunned and lifeless, and was so carried 
home to his mother. Then they sent in all haste for the young 
girl to restore him to consciousness ; but she was so frightened 
at her own evil work that she went and hid herself. Finding it 
then impossible to bring her, his friends sent for the fairy doctor, 
who, by dint of many charms and much stroking, at last restored 
the young man to life. The girl, however, was in such dread 
of the curses of the mother, that she fled, and took service in 
a distant part of the country. And all the people rejoiced much 
over her departure from amongst them. 

Yet it was considered lucky in some ways to have a fairy- 
stricken child in the house, for the fairies generally^ did a good 
turn by the family to compensate for the evil. And so there was 
always plenty of butter in the churn, and the cattle did not 
sicken wherever there was a stricken child. 

It is also lucky to employ a half-simpleton about the farm, and 
to be kind to the deaf and dumb, and other afflicted creatures. 
No one in Ireland would harm them or turn them out of their 
way, and they always get food and drink for the asking, without 
any payment being thought of or accepted. 


A woman was one night lying awake while her husband slept, 
when the door suddenly opened and a tall dark man entered, of 
fierce aspect, followed by an old hag with a child in her arms 
— a little, misshapen, sickly-looking little thing. They both sat 
down by the fire to warm themselves, and after some time 
the man looked over at the cradle that stood beside the mother's 
bed with her boy in it, and kept his eyes on it for several 
minutes. Then he rose, and when the mother saw him walking 
over direct to the cradle, she fainted and knew no more. 

"When she came to herself she called to her husband, and bade 
him light a candle; this he did, on which the old hag in the 
corner rose up at once and blew it out. Then he lit it a second 
time, and it was blown out ; and still a third time he lit the 
candle, when again it was blown out, and a great peal of laughter 
was heard in the darkness. 

On this the man grew terribly angry, and taking up the tongs 
he made a blow at the hag ; but she slipped away, and struck him 
on the arm with a stick she held in her hand. Then he grew 


more furious, and "beat her on the head till she roared, when 
he pushed her outside and locked the door. 

After this he lit the candle in peace ; but when they looked at 
the cradle, lo ! in place of their own beautiful boy, a hideous 
little creature, all covered with hair, lay grinning at them. 
Great was their grief and lamentation, and both the man and his 
wife wept and wailed aloud for the loss of their child, and 
the cry of their sorrow was bitter to hear. 

J ust then the door suddenly opened, and a young woman came 
in, with a scarlet handkerchief wound round her head. 

" What are you crying for," she asked, " at this time of night, 
when every one should be asleep ? " 

" Look at this child in the cradle," answered the man, " and 
you will cease to wonder why we mourn and are sad at heart." 
And he told her all the story. 

When the young woman went over to the cradle and looked at 
the child, she laughed, but said nothing. 

"Your laughter is stranger than our tears," said the man. 
{t Why do you laugh in the face of our sorrows ? " 

" Because," she said, " this is my child that was stolen from me 
to-night ; for I am one of the fairy race, and my people, who live 
under the fort on the hill, thought your boy was a fine child, and 
so they changed the babies in the cradle ; but, after all, I would 
rather have my own, ugly as he is, than any mortal child in the 
world. So now I'll tell you how to get back your own son, and 
I'll take away mine at once. Go to the old fort on the hill when 
the moon is full, and take with you three sheafs of corn and some 
fire, and burn them one after the other. And when the last sheaf 
is burning, an old man will come up through the smoke, and 
he will ask you what it is you desire. Then tell him you must 
have your child back, or you will burn down the fort, and leave 
no dwelling-place for his people on the hill. Now, the fairies 
cannot stand against the power of fire, and they will give you 
back your child at the mere threat of burning the fort. But mind, 
take good care of him after, and tie a nail from a horse-shoe 
round his neck, and then he will be safe." 

With that the young woman took up the ugly little imp from 
the cradle in her arms, and was away before they could see 
how she got out of the house. 

Next night, when the moon was full, the man went to the old 
fort with the three sheafs of corn and the fire, and burned them 
one after the other ; and as the second was lighted there came up 
an old man and asked him what was his desire. 

" I must have my child again that was stolen," he answered, 
" or I'll burn down every tree on the hill, and not leave you a 
stone of the fort where you can shelter any more with your fairy 


Then the old man vanished, and there was a great silence, but 
no one appeared. 

On this the father grew angry, and he called out in a loud 
voice, " I am lifting the third sheaf now, and I'll burn and destroy 
and make desolate your dwelling-place, if my child is not re- 

Then a great tumult and clamour was heard in the fort, and a 
voice said, " Let it be. The power of the fire is too strong for 
us. Bring forth the child." 

And presently the old man appeared, carrying the child in 
his arms. 

" Take him," he said. " By the spell of the fire, and the corn 
you have conquered. But take my advice, draw a circle of fire, 
with a hot coal this night, round the cradle when you go home, 
and the fairy power cannot touch him any more, by reason of 
the fire. 

So the man did as he was desired, and by the spell of fire 
and of corn the child was saved from evil, and he grew and 
prospered. And the old fort stands to this day safe from 
harm, for the man would allow no hand to move a stone or harm 
a tree; and the fairies still dance there on the rath, when the 
moon is full, to the music of the fairy pipes, and no one hinders 


If a healthy child suddenly droops and withers, that child is 
fairy-struck, and a fairy doctor must be at once called in. Young 
girls also, who fall into rapid decline, are said to be fairy-struck ; 
for they are wanted in Fairy-land as brides for some chief or 
prince, and so they pine away without visible cause till they die. 

The other malign influences that act fatally on life are the Wind 
and the Evil Eye. The evil power of the Wind is called a fairy- 
blast ; while, of one suffering from the Evil Eye, they say he has 
been "overlooked." 

The fairy doctor must pronounce from which of these Ithree 
causes the patient is suffering. The fairy-stroke, or the fairy- 
blast, or the Evil Eye ; but he must take no money for the opinion 
given. He is paid in some other way; by free gracious offerings 
in gratitude for help given. 

A person who visited a great fairy doctor for advice, thus 
describes the process of cure at the interview : — 

"The doctor always seems as if expecting you, and had full 
knowledge of your coming. He bids you be seated, and after 
looking fixedly on your face for some moments, his proceedings 


begin. He takes three rods of witch hazel, each three inches 
long, and marks them separately, i For the Stroke/ ' For the 
Wind,' 'For the Evil Eye/ This is to ascertain from which of 
these three evils you suffer. He then takes off his coat, shoes, 
and stockings ; rolls up his shirt sleeves, and stands with his face 
to the sun in earnest prayer. After prayer he takes a dish of pure 
water and sets it by the fire, then kneeling down, he puts the 
three hazel rods he had marked into the fire, and leaves them 
there till they are burned black as charcoal. All the time his 
prayers are unceasing ; and when the sticks are burned, he rises, 
and again faces the sun in silent prayer, standing with his 
eyes uplifted and hands crossed. After this he draws a circle 
on the floor with the end of one of the burned sticks, within which 
circle he stands, the dish of pure water beside him. Into this he 
flings the three hazel rods, and watches the result earnestly. The 
moment one sinks he addresses a prayer to the sun, and taking 
the rod out of the water he declares by what agency the patient 
is afflicted. Then he grinds the rod to powder, puts it in a bottle 
which he fills up with water from the dish, and utters an incan- 
tation or prayer over it, in a low voice, with clasped hands held 
over the bottle. But what the words of the prayer are no one 
knows, they are kept as solemn mysteries, and have been handed 
down from father to son through many generations, from the 
most ancient times. The potion is then given to be carried home, 
and drunk that night at midnight in silence and alone. Great 
care must be taken that the bottle never touches the ground ; 
and the person carrying it must speak no word, and never 
look round till home is reached. The other two sticks he buries 
in the earth in some place unseen and unknown. If none of the 
three sticks sink in the water, then he uses herbs as a cure. 
Vervain, eyebright, and yarrow are favourite remedies, and all 
have powerful properties known to the adept ; but the words and 
prayers he utters over them are kept secret, and whether they 
are good or bad, or addressed to Deity or to a demon, none but 
himself can tell." 

These are the visible mysteries of the fairy doctor while work- 
ing out his charms and incantations. But other fairy doctors 
only perform the mysteries in private, and allow no one to see 
their mode of operation or witness the act of prayer. 

If a potion is made up of herbs it must be paid for in silver ; 
but charms and incantations are never paid for, or they would lose 
their power. A present, however, may be accepted as an offering 
of gratitude. 



A veby ancient story, as old as the tenth century, is narrated, and 
firmly believed by the people, that once on a time when the 
reapers were at work, a fine handsome young married woman, who 
was in the field with them, suddenly fell down dead. This caused 
a great fear and consternation, especially as it was asserted that 
just before the fatal event, a fairy blast had passed over the field, 
carrying a cloud of dust and stones with it ; and there could be no 
doubt but that the fairies had rushed by in the cloud, and struck 
the woman dead as they passed. 

Then her people sent for the great wise poet of the tribe, who 
was reputed to have the power by his song to break the strongest 
fairy spells : and he chanted low music over her, and uttered 
mystic incantations, the words of which no man heard ; but after 
a while the woman unclosed her eyes and rose up, restored to life. 

When they questioned her, she told them all she knew. 

" In sickness I was," she said, " and I appeared to be dead, for 
I could neither speak nor move, till the song of the poet gave me 
power. Then the life rose up in me again, and the strength, and 
I was healed," 


There is a very ancient and potent charm which may be tried 
with great effect in case of a suspected fairy-stroke. 

Place three rows of salt on a table in three lines, three equal 
measures to each row. The person performing the spell then 
encloses the rows of salt with his arm, leaning his head down 
over them, while he repeats the Lord's Prayer three times over 
each row — that is, nine times in all. Then he takes the hand of 
the one who has been fairy-struck, and says over it, " By the 
power of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, let 
this disease depart, and the spell of the evil spirits be broken ! I 
adjure, I command you to leave this man [naming him]. In the 
name of God I pray ; in the name of Christ I adjure ; in the name 
of the Spirit of God I command and compel you to go back and 
leave this man free ! Amen ! Amen ! Amen I " 



The peasants have the greatest dread of the fairy-stroke, and 
consider it the most dangerous indication of fairy hostility. 
When a person is struck, he becomes wholly insensible to external 
things, as if his soul had been taken out of him and carried away. 

A farmer once began to build a barn on a fairy circle, to the 
great horror of the neighbours, who warned him of the danger ; 
but he only laughed at their nonsense, and built and finished his 
barn on the fairy rath. 

However, riding home one evening after sunset, he was 
suddenly " struck," and fell insensible to the ground. They 
carried him home and laid him on his bed, where he lay for 
several days, his eyes fixed and staring without any motion of the 
eyelids, and no indication of life remaining, except his colour 
which never changed. 

All the doctors came and looked at him, but could do nothing. 
There was no fracture nor injury of any kind to his frame ; so the 
doctors shook their heads and went their way, saying they would 
call again in a day or two. But the family objected to delay, and 
sent at once for the great fairy doctor of the district. The, 
moment he came he threw herbs on the fire, when a fragrant smell 
filled the room like church incense. Then he pounded some herbs 
and mixed a liquid with them, but what the herbs were, no one 
knew. And with this mixture he touched the brow and the lips 
and the hands of the man, and sprinkled the rest over his insensible 
form. After this he told them to keep silence round him for two 
hours, when he would return and finish the cure. And so it 
happened, for in two hours the life came back to the man, though 
he could not speak. But strength came gradually ; and by the 
next day he rose up, and said he had dreamed a dream, and heard 
a voice saying to him, " Pull down the barn, for ill-luck is on it." 
Accordingly he gave orders to his men, and every # stick and stone 
was carried away, and the fairy rath left free again for the fairies 
to dance on, as in the olden time, when they were the gods of the 
earth, long before men came to dispute their rights, and take 
possession of their ancient pleasure grounds — an indignity no 
high-spirited fairy could calmly endure. For in their councils 
they had decreed that the fairy rath, at least, should be sacred for 
all time, and woe to the man who builds his house thereon. An 
evil fate is on him and on the house for evermore. Down it must 
come, or the evil spell will never be lifted. There is no hope for 
it, for the most dangerous and subtle of all enemies is an angry 

Nor should the paths even be crossed by work of human hand, 
which the fairies traverse from one palace to another, Their line of 


march must not be impeded. Finvarra and his men would resent 
such a gross insult to the royal fairy rights, and severely punish 
the audacious and offending mortal. Not even the Grand Jury 
would be allowed to interfere, for if they did, every man of them 
would be demolished in some way or other by fairy power, 


The fairies, beside being revengeful, are also very arrogant, and 
allow no interference with their old-established rights. 

There is a rath in the Queen's County, only four yards in 
diameter, but held so sacred as the fairies' dancing ground that no 
one dared to remove a handful of earth from the mound ; and at 
niglit the sweetest low music may be heard floating round the hill, 
as if played by silver bagpipes. 

One evening a boy lay down on the rath to listen to the music, 
and, without thinking, began to gather up balls of the clay and 
fling them hither and thither in sport, when suddenly he was 
struck down by a violent blow and became senseless. 

There he was found by his people, who went to search for him ; 
and when he came to himself he bleated like a calf, and it was a 
long time before he recovered his reason, for the power of the 
fairies is great, and none can resist it« 


There is no superstition stronger in Ireland than a belief in the 
curative power of the sacred wells that are scattered over the 
country ; fountains of health and healing which some saint had 
blessed, or by which some saint had dwelt in the far-off ancient 
times. But well-worship is even older than Christianity. It is 
part of the early ritual of humanity, brought from the Eastern 
lands by the first Aryan tribes who migrated westward, passing 
along from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic shores. 

The Delphic oracle in its origin was nothing more than a holy 
well, shadowed by trees, on which were hung the votive offerings 
of the praying peasants, long before the rivai kings brought to the 
sacred spot their votive tributes of silver and gold, and crowns of 
precious stones. 

In Ireland the beautiful, picturesque, and tree-shadowed wells 
of the country were held sacred by the Druid priests, as is evident 
from the many remarkable Druidical remains that have been found 
in their vicinity — ruins of temples and pillar-stones, and stones 
with strange carvings. Much also of the ancient Druidic 
ceremonial has been preserved by the people, such as the symbolic 
dances, the traditions of sun-worship, and other pagan rites, which 
were incorporated into the Christian ritual of well-worship by the 
early converts, and are still retained, though, through the lapse of 
ages, they have entirely lost their original significance, and are 
now only practised as ancient customs, for which the Irish have 
great reverence, as having come down to tnem from their fore- 
fathers. The ceremonial is the same at all these places of devout 
pilgrimage. The pilgrims go round the well a certain number of 
times, either three or nine, creeping on their hands and knees, but 
always from east to west, following the apparent motion of the 
sun, and reciting paters and aves all the time. At the close of 
each round they build up a small pile of stones ; for at the last 
day the angels will reckon these stones, and he who has said the 
most prayers will have the highest place in heaven, each saint 
keeping count for his own votaries. The patient then descends 
the broken steps to the well and, kneeling down, bathes his fore- 
head and hands in the water, after which oblation the pain or 


disease lie suffered from will be gradually removed, and depart 
from him for evermore. 

At some wells there is often a rude stone monument of the 
ancient times, and the eyes of the pilgrim must be kept steadily 
fixed on it while reciting the prayers. 

Whenever a white-thorn or an ash-tree shadows the place, the 
well is held to be peculiarly sacred ; and on leaving, having first 
drunk of the water, the patient ties a votive offering to the branches 
— generally a coloured handkerchief or a bright red strip cut from 
a garment ; and these offerings are never removed. They remain 
for years fluttering in the wind and the rain, just as travellers 
have described the votive offerings on the sacred trees that 
shadow the holy wells of Persia. They are signs and tokens of 
gratitude to the patron saint, and are meant to show the devil that 
he has no longer power to harm the praying pilgrim, or torment 
him with pains and aches as heretofore. It is not supposed that 
the water of the well has any natural medicinal properties. The 
curative efficacy is wholly due to the observance of the ritual in 
honour of the saint, whose spirit and influence is still over the 
well, by which he lived, and of which he drank while living on 
the earth. 


At many of the wells quantities of beautiful white stones are 
found that glitter in the sun, and these are highly esteemed by 
the pilgrims to build up their prayer monuments. 

One day some women were eagerly collecting these stones, after 
each round of praying, in order to build up a monument ; when 
suddenly a strain of soft, exquisite music seemed to rise up from 
the water and float by them. In their joy and wonder the women 
clapped their hands and laughed aloud, when instantly the music 
ceased and the pile of stones fell down. By which sign they 
knew that they should not have laughed while the angels were 
singing ; and they fell on their knees and prayed. 

A holy well once lost all its power because a murder had been 
committed near it ; and another because it was cursed by a priest 
in consequence of the immorality that prevailed at the patterns. 


The water of the sacred well must never be used for household 
purposes — cooking, washing, or the like. But after the well was 


cursed by the priest, and the tents were struck, and no pattern 
was held there any longer, it lost all its sanctity, and was no 
longer held sacred by the people, who began to fill their pails, 
and carry the water away home for cooking and household use ; 
while also they all washed their clothes down at the well, just as 
if no sanctity had ever been in the water. 

However, one day a woman having put down a pot of water to 
boil, found that no amount of fire would heat it. Still it remained 
ice-cold, as if just drawn from the well. So she looked carefully 
into the pot, and there beheld the Sacred Speckled Trout sailing 
round and round quite contented and happy. On seeing this, she 
knew that the curse was lifted from the well, and she ran and 
told the priest. His reverence having seen the Sacred Trout with 
his own eyes, ordered it to be carried back to the well, the water 
of which at once regained all its sacred powers by the blessing of 
the priest ; and he gave the people leave thenceforth to hold their 
pattern there, so as they behaved themselves like decent, God- 
fearing Christians for the future. But the water was not allowed 
to be carried away any more to their houses for household pur- 
poses ; the desecration of the holy water of a sacred well being 
strictly forbidden as dangerous and unlucky. 


At a holy well in the south, dedicated to St. Augustine, the friars 
began to build a convent. And during all the hours of work bells 
were heard ringing sweetly and voices singing; but one day 
a woman came and washed her feet in the water of the well, and 
thereupon all the bells ceased and the singing stopped, and the 
work could not go on. So the friars chose another site, and they 
drew a circle round it, within which no woman was to set her 
foot ; and after this the bells began to ring again and the voices 
sang, and the work went on safely till the convent was completed 
in the name of God and St. Augustine ; but no woman during all 
that time ever set foot on the holy ground. 


In Sligo there is a well called Tober-na-alt, beautifully shadowed 
by trees, the branches of which are thickly hung with all sorts of 
votive offerings from those who have been cured by the water ; 


and miracle-men attended, who professed to heal diseases by 
enarcns, prayers, and incantations. 

A man who had been born blind once recited his experiences 
there. " Oh, Christians, look on me ! I was blind from my 
birth and saw no light till I came to the blessed well ; now I see 
the water and the speckled trout down at the bottom, with the 
white cross on his back. Glory be to God for the cure." And 
when the people heard that he could really see the speckled trout, 
of course they all believed in the miracle. For a tradition exists 
that a sacred trout has lived there from time immemorial, placed 
in the well by the saint who first sanctified the water. Now there 
was an adventurous man who desired much to get possession of 
this trout, and he watched it till at last he caught it asleep. 
Then he carried it off and put it on the gridiron. The trout bore 
the grilling of one side very patiently ; but when the man tried 
to turn it on the fire, the trout suddenly jumped up and made off 
as hard as it could back to the well, where it still lives, and can 
be seen at times by those who have done proper penance and paid 
their dues to the priest, with one side all streaked and marked 
brown by the bars of the gridiron, which can never be effaced. 


Thebb is a great hole or well near the river Suir, always filled 
with water, whose depth no man has yet fathomed. Near it is a 
castle, which in old times belonged to a powerful chief called 
Neal-mor. One day while his servants were saving the hay, a 
violent tempest of wind and rain came on, which quite destroyed 
the crop. Then Neal-mor was filled with rage, and he mounted 
his horse and drew his sword, and rode forth to the field ; and 
there he challenged the Lord God Himself to battle. And he 
swung his sword round his head and struck at the air, as if 
he would kill and slay the Great Invisible Spirit. On which sud- 
denly a strange thing happened, for a great whirlwind arose and 
the earth opened, and Neal-mor, still astride on his horse and 
with his sword in his hand, was lifted high up into the air and 
then cast down alive into the great hole, called Poul-mor f which 
may be seen to this day, and the castle is still standing by the 
margin. But no trace of Neal-mor or his steed was ever again 
beheld. They perished utterly by the vengeance of God. 

But some time after his disappearance, a rude stone figure 
seated on a horse, was cast up out of the earth ; and then all men 
knew the fate of the terrible chief who had braved the wrath of 
(rod, for here was his image and the sign of his destruction. The 
etone figure is still preserved at the castle, and tradition says that 


If it were removed, the whole castle would crumble to pieces in a 
single night and be cast into the Poul-mor, 


At St. John's well, County Cork, there is a large stone, believed 
to be the real true head of John the Baptist, grown hard and solid 
from time and the action of the elements. And the stone has 
certainly a rude resemblance to a human head. 

Suspected persons are brought to swear on it for a clearing from 
guilt ; for it is held in high reverence. Compacts are also made 
there, which are held inviolate, for no one who swears with his 
hand on the stone, would ever dream of breaking the oath, and 
each person present as witness scratches a cross on the surface 
with a sharp piece of slate. 

A number of pagan remains are in the vicinity, but they are 
now held in reverence as places of Christian sanctity. 

Some time ago an ancient stone image was dug up from the 
earth, which antiquarians pronounced to be a pagan idol, probably 
the Irish Siva. This was at first consecrated as Saint Gobnath, 
but afterwards the priest destroyed the image with his own 

All the paths round the well are marked deep by the lines of 
praying pilgrims who go round it on their knees. And there are 
piles of the little stones that mark the prayers of the penitents, 
all ready for the angels to count. Most of the stones are of pure 
quartz, white and glistening, and these are highly esteemed. 


The ancient churches and cells of the saints were generally 
placed in the vicinity of a well, which then became sanctified and 
endowed with miraculous healing power. Or the well may have 
been held sacred by the Druids, and the scene of their pagan 
rites ; therefore selected by the saint specially as his dwelling- 
place, so that he might bring it under the fosterage and holy 
influence of Christianity. 

The grave of the great Fionn was laid by a celebrated well in 
the County Cork, and it is certain that a massive human jawbone 
was found there not long ago, far exceeding in size the bones of 
the present race of men. This jawbone was sent to London to be 


inspected by the learned philosophers, hut was never returned — a 
great and grievous wrong to the renowned Irish chief, for no 
doubt the mighty Fionn will want it badly at the last day, when 
he is gathering up his bones to appear before the Lord, 


Thebe is a place on the shore of Scattery Island, where, accord- 
ing to the most ancient tradition, a sacred well once existed, with 
miraculous curative powers. But no one could ever discover the 
place, for at high water the sea covered every point up to the 
edge of the land, and the shifting sand made all efforts to find the 
locality of the well vain and fruitless. 

But one day a young man who was lame in both legs from the 
effects of a fall, and much disabled in consequence, was goiiig 
along the shore with some companions, when he suddenly sank up 
to his waist in the sand. With much difficulty, and after a long 
while, his comrades managed to haul him up, when to their 
amazement they found that his legs were now quite straight, and 
he stood up before them four inches taller than before he sank 
down into the sand. 

So at once they knew that the sacred well must have worked 
the cure, and they dug and dug and cleared away the sand, till at 
last they came on some ancient steps, and down below lay the 
well, clear and fresh, and untouched by the salt of the sea, the 
holy well of St. Seenan, that their fathers and forefathers had 
vainly looked for. 

Now there was great rejoicing in the country when the news 
spread ; and all the people from far and near who had pains and 
ailments rushed off to the well and drank of the waters and 
poured libations of it over their persons, wherever the pain or 
the disease lay, and in a short time wonderful cures were effected. 
So next day still greater crowds arrived to try their good luck. 
But when they came to the place, not a vestige of the well could 
be found.^ The sand and the sea had covered all, and from that 
day to this the holy well of St, Seenan has never been seen by 
mortal eyes* 


Tober Kil-na~Crreina (the well of the fountain of the sun) was 
discovered only about eighty years ago, by a strange chance in 
tbe County Cork. 



The land was a desolate marsh, no one built on it, and nothing 
grew on it or near it. But a large grey stone lay there, with 
a natural hollow in the centre that would hold about a gallon of 
water, and close by were the remains of an old pagan fort. 

One day, the farmer who owned the land carried off this great 
grey stone to use as a drinking trough for his cattle. But not 
long after all the cattle grew sick, and then all the children 
sickened, so the farmer said there was ill luck in the business, and 
he carried back the stone to its old place, on which all the house- 
hold recovered their health. Thereupon the farmer began to 
think there must be something wonderful and mysterious in the 
locality, so he had the marsh thoroughly drained, after which 
process they came upon an ancient stone circle, and in the midst 
was a well of beautiful fresh water. Some people said there was 
writing on the stones, and strange carvings ; but it was generally 
believed to be a Druid temple and oracle, for there was a tradition 
that a woman called the Ban-na-Naomha (the nymph of the well) 
had once lived there — and that she had the gift of prophecy, and 
uttered oracles to those who sought her at the shrine by the well ; 
and there was a little wooden image of her, also, that used to 
speak to the people — so it was said and believed. It is certain, 
however, that a pagan temple once existed there, for which reason 
St. Patrick cursed the land and turned it into a marsh, and the 
well was hidden for a thousand years, according to St. Patrick's 

On the discovery of the well the whole country flocked to it for 
cures. Tents were erected and a pattern was organized, which 
went on for some years with great success, and many authentic 
instances are recorded of marvellous miracles performed there. 

The ritual observed was very strict at the beginning, three 
draughts of water were taken by the pilgrims, the number of 
drinks three, the number of rounds on their knees were three, thus 
making the circuit of the well nine times. After each round the 
pilgrim laid a stone on the ancient altar in the Druid circle, called 
" the well of the sun," and these stones, named in Irish " the 
stones of the sun," are generally pure white, and about the size of 
a pigeon's egg. They have a beautiful appearance after rain when 
the sun shines on them, and were doubtless held sacred to the sun 
in pagan times. The angels will reckon these stones at the last 
day, but each particular saint will take charge of his own votaries 
and see that the stones are properly counted, for each man will 
receive forgiveness according to their number. 

But gradually the revelry at the pattern gave occasion for so 
much scandal, that the priest denounced the well from the altar, 
along with all the wickedness it fostered and encouraged. Still 
the people would not give up the pattern, and the drinking, and 
dancing, and gambling, and fighting went on worse than evei* 


until one day a man was killed. After this a curse seemed to 
have fallen on the place. The well lost all its miraculous powers, 
no cures were effected ; the maimed, the halt, and the blind prayed 
before it, and went the rounds, and piled the stones as usual, but 
no help came, and worst sign of all, a great pagan stone on which 
a cross had been erected, fell down of its own accord, and the 
cross lay shattered on the ground. Then all the people knew that 
the curse of blood and of St. Patrick was indeed over the well ; so 
it was deserted, and the tents were struck, and no pattern was 
ever held there any more, for the virtue of healing had gone from 
u the fountain of the sun," and never has come back to it through 
all the years. 

Even the Ban-Naomha, the nymph of the fountain, who used 
to manifest herself occasionally to the regenerate under the form 
of a trout, disappeared at the same time, and though she may be 
heard of at other sacred wells, was never again seen by the devout 
pilgrims who watched for her appearance at the Tober-kil-na~ 


At Tober Mire, the well of the field of worship, County Cork, 
there are also many pagan monuments, and it is evident that the 
vicinity was one of the strongholds of the Druids in ancient times, 
where they had a temple, a burial-ground, and stones for sacrifice : 
a much larger population existed also round the temple than can 
now be numbered in the same locality. 


Nbab the last-named well is the Bride's Well, Tober Breda (the 
holy well of St. Bridget). There is a stone oratory here of 
fabulous antiquity, with a doorway fashioned after the Egyptian 
model, sloping towards the top; also an ancient white-thorn 
covered with votive offerings, amongst which one may see many a 
long lock of the splendid dark hair of the Irish southern women, 
who adopt this antique traditional symbol of self-sacrifice to show 
their gratitude to the patron saint. 

St. Bridget took the name of the pagan goddess Brighita in 
order to destroy and obliterate the idolatrous rites and transfer 
the devotion of the people to the Christian ceremonies, and Tober- 
Breda is now considered of the highest sanctity, being under the 
epecial patronage of St, Bridget, 




Many of the professional prayer-men, or Fakirs, resortto the 
Tober-Breda during the pattern, and manage to obtain gifts and 
contributions and all sorts of excellent things in exchange for 
their prayers from the rich farmers and young girls, to whom they 
promise good luck, and perhaps also a lover who will be handsome 
and young. 

These Irish Fakirs, or sacred fraternity of beggars, lead a 
pleasant, thoroughly idle life. They carry a wallet and a staff, 
and being looked on as holy men endowed with strange spiritual 
gifts, they are entirely supported by the voluntary gifts of the 
people, who firmly believe in the mysterious efficacy of their 
prayers and blessings and prognostics of luck. 

One of these Fakirs towards the end of his life was glad to find 
shelter in the poor-house. He was then eighty years of age, but 
a tall, erect old man, with flowing white beard and hair, keen 
eyes, and of the most venerable aspect. 

A gentleman who saw him there, being much struck with his 
dignified and remarkable appearance, induced him to tell the 
story of his life, which was marked by several strange and curious 

He said he was a farmer's son, but from his earliest youth hated 
work, and only liked to spend the long summer day lying on the 
grass gazing up into the clouds dreaming and thinking where they 
were all sailing to, and longing to float away with them to other 

Meanwhile his father raged and swore and beat him, often 
cruelly, because he would not work. But all the same, he could 
not bring himself to be digging from morning to night, and herding 
cattle, and keeping company only with labourers. 

So when he was about twenty he formed a plan to run away ; 
for, he thought, if the stupid old Fakirs who are lame and blind 
and deaf find people ready to support them, all for nothing, might 
not he have a better chance for getting board and lodging without 
work, since he had youth and health and could tell them stories 
to no end of the great old ancient times. 

So one night he quitted his father's house secretly, and went 
forth on his travels into the wide world, only to meet bitter dis- 
appointment and rude repulse, for the farmers would have nothing 
to say to him, nor the farmers' wives. Every one eyed him with 
suspicion. " Why," they said, " should a great stalwart young 
fellow over six feet high go about the country begging? He 
was a tramp and meant no good." And they chased him away 
from their grounds. 

Then he thought he would disguise himself as a regular Fakir} 


so he got a long* cloak, and took a wallet and a staff, and hid his 
raven black hair under a close skull cap, and tried to look as old 
as he could. 

But the regular Fakirs soon found him out, and their spite and 
rage was great, for all of them were either lame of a leg or blind 
of an eye, and they said ; " Why should this great broad- 
shouldered young fellow with the black eyes come and take away 
our chances of living, when he ought to be able to work and earn 
enough to keep himself without robbing us of our just rights ? " 
And they grumbled and snarled at him like so many dogs, and set 
people to spy on him and watch him. 

Still he was determined to try his luck on every side : so he 
went to all the stations round about and prayed loader and faster 
than any pilgrim or Fakir amongst the whole lot. 

But wherever he went he saw a horrible old hag for ever fol- 
lowing him. Her head was wrapped up in an old red shawl, and 
nothing was seen of her face except two eyes, that glared on him 
like coals of fire whichever way he turned. And now, in truth, 
his life became miserable to him because of this loathsome hag. 
So he went from station to station to escape her ; but still she 
followed him, and the sound of her stick on the ground was ever 
after him like the hammering of a nail into his coffin, for he felt 
sure he would die of the torment and horror. 

At last he thought he would try Tobar-Breda for his next 
station, as it was several miles off and she might not be able to 
follow him so far. So he went, and not a sign of her was to be 
seen upon the road. This rejoiced his heart, and he kneeled down 
at the well and was saying his prayers louder and faster than 
ever when he looked up, and there, kneeling right opposite to him 
at the other side of the road, was the detestable old witch. But 
she took no notice of him, only went on saying her prayers and 
telling her beads as if no one were by. 

Presently, however, she stooped down to wash her face in the 
well, and, as she threw up the water with her hands, she let the 
red shawl slip down over her shoulders, and then the young man 
beheld to his astonishment a beautiful young girl before him with 
a complexion like the lily and the rose, and soft brown hair falling 
in showers of curls over her snow-white neck. 

He had only a glimpse for a moment while she cast the water 
in her face, and then she drew the red shawl again over her head 
and shoulders and was the old hag once more that had filled him 
with horror. But that one glimpse was enough to make his heart 
faint with love ; and now for the first time she turned her burning 
eyes full on him, and kept them fixed until he seemed to swoon away 
in an ecstacy of happiness, and knew nothing more till he found her 
seated beside him, holding his hand in hers, and still looking 
intently on his face with her glittering eyes. 


" Come away," she whispered ; " follow me. We must leave 
this crowd of pilgrims. I have much to say to you." 

So he rose up, and they went away together to a secluded spot, 
far from the noise and tumult of the station. Then she threw off 
the shawl, and took the bandage from her face, and said, " Look 
on me. Can you love me ? I have followed you day by day for 
love of you. Can you love me in return, and join your fate to 
mine ? # I have money enough for both, and I'll teach you the 
mysteries by which we can gain more." 

And from that day forth they two travelled together all over 
the country; and they practised many strange mysteries and 
charms, for Elaine, his wife, was learned in all the secrets of herb 
lore. And the people paid them well for their help and know- 
ledge, so that they never wanted anything, and lived like princes, 
though never an evil act was done by their hands, nor did a word 
of strife ever pass between them. 

Thus they lived happily for many years, till an eyil day came 
when Elaine was struck by sickness, and she died. 

Then the soul of the man seemed to die with her, and all his 
knowledge left him, and sad and weary, and tired of all things, he 
finally came to end his days in the poor-house, old, poor, and 
broken-hearted. Yet still he had the bearing of one born for a 
higher destiny, and the noble dignity as of a discrowned king. 

Such was the strange story told to the gentleman by the aged 
Fakir in the poor-house, a short time before his death. 


The large old hawthorns, growing singly in a field or by an 
ancient well, are considered very sacred ; and no one would venture 
to cut them down, for the fairies dance under the branches at 
night, and would resent being interfered with. 

There is a Holy Stone in an island of the Shannon, called St. 
Patrick's Stone. It is shadowed by an aged hawthorn, the per- 
fume of which can be scented far off on the mainland in the 
flowering season. At the top of this stone is a large hollow, 
always filled with water by the rain or the dew, which is kept 
from evaporation^ by the heavy shadows of the branching haw- 
thorn. It is believed that the water of this hollow has great 
healing power, and sometimes when a patient is brought from a 
distance, a rude stone shed is built under the tree, and there he is 
laid till the cure is completed by the water of the Holy Stone. 
On leaving he ties a votive offering to the tree, which is always 
covered with these memorials of gratitude. 


In autumn the people go to bewail the dead at St. Patrick's 
Stone ; and the mournful Irish chant may be often heard rising 
up in the still evening air with weird and solemn effect. 


Tober-na-Dara (the well of tears) was so called because it over- 
flowed one time for a mile round, from the tears of the Irish wives 
and mothers who came there to weep for their fallen kindred, who 
had been slain in a battle, fighting against Cromwell's troopers of 
the English army. 


Wonbebful tales are related about the formation of Lough 
Neagh; and the whole country round abounds with traditions. 
One of them affirms that the great Fionn Ma-Ooul,beinginarage 
one day, took up a handful of earth and flung it into the sea ; and 
the handful was of such a size that where it fell it formed the 
Isle of Man, and the hollow caused by its removal became the 
basin of the present Lough Neagh. 

Another legend is that a holy well once existed in the locality, 
blessed and sanctified by a saint with wonderful miraculous powers 
of healing; provided that every patient on leaving, after cure, 
carefully closed the wicket-gate that shut in the well. But once, 
however, a woman having forgotten this information, left the 
gate open, when instantly the indignant waters sprang from 
their bed and pursued the offender, who fled in terror before the 
advancing waves, until at last she sank down exhausted, when the 
waters closed over her, and she was no more seen. But along the 
track of her flight the waters remained, and formed the great lake 
now existing, which is exactly the length the woman traversed in 
her flight from the angry spirit of the lake. 

Mysterious influences still haunt the locality all round Lough 
Neagh ; for it is the most ancient dwelling-place of the fairies, 
and when they pass at night, from one island to another, soft 
music is heard floating by, and then the boatmen know that the 
fairies are out for a pleasure trip ; and one man even averred that 
he saw them going by in the track of the moonbeam, a crowd of 
little men all dressed in green with red caps, and the ladies in 
silver gossamer. And he liked these pretty creatures, and always 
left a little poteen for them in the bottle when he was on the 
island. Xb return for which attention they gave him the best of 


good luck in fishing and in everything else ; for never a gauger came 
next or nigh his place while the fairies protected him, and many 
a time they led the gauger into a bog, and otherwise discomfited 
him, when he and his men were after a still. 

So the fisherman loved his little friends, and they took great 
care of him ; for even in the troublous times of ? 98, when the 
wreckers were all over the country, they did him no harm ; though 
indeed the same wreckers knew where to find a good glass of 
something when they came his way, and he always gave it to 
them with a heart and a half ; for didn't they tell him they were 
going to free Ireland from the Sassenach tyranny. 

Down deep, under the waters of Lough Neagh,can still be seen, 
by those who have the gift of fairy vision, the columns and walls 
of the beautiful palaces once inhabited by the fairy race when 
they were the gods of the earth ; and this tradition of a buried 
town beneath the waves has been prevalent for centuries amongst 
the people. 

Giraldus Oambrensis states, that in his time the tops of towers, 
" built after the fashion of the country," were distinctly visible in 
calm, clear weather, under the surface of the lake ; and still the 
fairies haunt the ruins of their former splendour, and hold festivals 
beneath the waters when the full moon is shining ; for the boatmen, 
coming home late at night, have often heard sweet music rising up 
from beneath the waves and the sound of laughter, and seen 
glimmering lights far down under the water, where the ancient 
fairy palaces are supposed to be. 


Late one night, so the story goes, a great doctor, who lived near 
Lough Neagh, was awoke by the sound of a carriage driving up 
to his door, followed by a loud ring. Hastily throwing on his 
clothes, the doctor ran down, when he saw a little sprite of a page 
standing at the carriage door, and a grand gentleman inside. 

" Oh, doctor, make haste and come with me," exclaimed the 
gentleman. " Lose no time, for a great lady has been taken ill, 
and she will have no one to attend her but you. So come along 
with me at once in the carriage." 

On this the doctor ran up again to finish his dressing, and to put 
up all that might be wanted, and was down again in a moment. 

" Now quick," said the gentleman, a you are an excellent good 
fellow. Sit down here beside me, and do not be alarmed at 
anything you may see." 

So on they drove like mad— and when they came to the ferry, 


the doctor thought they would wake up the ferryman and take 
the boat ; but no, in they plunged, carriage and horses, and all, 
and were at the other side in no time without a drop of water 
touching them. 

Now the doctor began to suspect the company he was in ; but 
he held his peace, and they went on up Shane's Hill, till they 
stopped at a long, low, black house, which they entered, and passed 
along a narrow dark passage, groping their way, till, all at once, 
a bright light lit up the walls, and some attendants having opened 
a door, the doctor found himself in a gorgeous chamber all hung 
with silk and gold ; and on a silken couch lay a beautiful lady, 
who exclaimed with the most friendly greeting — 

" Oh, doctor, I am so glad to see you. How good of you to 

"Many thanks, my lady," said the doctor, "I am at your 
ladyship's service." 

And he stayed with her till a male child was born ; but when 
he looked round there was no nurse, so he wrapped it in swaddling 
clothes and laid it by the mother. 

" Now," said the lady, " mind what I tell you. They will try 
to put a spell on you to keep you here; but take my advice, eat 
no food and drink no wine, and you will be safe ; and mind, also, 
that you express no surprise at anything you see ; and take no 
more than five golden guineas, though you may be offered fifty 
or a hundred, as your fee." 

" Thank you, madam," said the doctor, " I shall obey you in all 

With this the gentleman came into the room, grand and noble 
as a prince, and then he took up the child, looked at it and laid it 
again on the bed. 

Now there was a large fire in the room, and the gentleman took 
the fire shovel and drew all the burning coal to the front, leaving 
a great space at the back of the grate ; then he took up the child 
again and laid it in the hollow at the back of the fire and drew all 
the coal over it till it was covered ; but, mindful of the lady's 
advice, the doctor said never a word. Then the room suddenly 
changed to another still more beautiful, where a grand feast was 
laid out, of all sorts of meats and fair fruits and bright red wine 
in cups of sparkling crystal. 

"Now, doctor," said the gentleman, "sit down with us and take 
what best pleases you." 

" Sir," said the doctor, " I have made a vow neither to eat nor 
drink till I reach my home again. So please let me return without 
further delay." 

" Certainly," said the gentleman, " but first let me pay you for 
your trouble," and he laid down a bag of gold on the table and 
poured out a quantity of bright pieces. 


" I shall only take what is my right and no more/' said the 
doctor, and he drew over five golden guineas, and placed them in 
his purse. "And now, may I have the carriage to convey me 
back, for it is growing late ? " 

On this the gentleman laughed. "You have been learning 
secrets from my lady," he said. " However, you have behaved 
right well, and you shall be brought back safely." 

So the carriage came, and the doctor took his cane, and was 
carried back as the first time through the water — horses, carriage, 
and all — and so on till he reached his home all right just before 
daybreak. But when he opened his purse to take out the golden 
guineas, there he saw a splendid diamond ring along with them in 
the purse worth a king's ransom, and when he examined it he found 
the two letters of his own name carved inside. So he knew it 
was meant for him, a present from the fairy prince himself. 

All this happened a hundred years ago, but the ring still 
remains in the doctor's family, handed down from father to son, 
and it is remarked, that whoever wears it as the owner for the 
time has good luck and honour and wealth all the days of his life. 

" And by the light that shines, this story is true," added the 
narrator of the tale, using the strong form of asseveration by which 
the Irish-speaking peasants emphasize the truth of their words. 


On the north side of Lough Neagh there is still a holy well of 
great power and sanctity. Three ancient white-thorn trees over- 
shadow it, and about a mile distant is the fragmentary ruin of a 
wooden cross, erected in the olden time to mark the limit of the 
sacred ground. 

It was the custom up to a recent date for the pilgrims to go 
round this well thirteen times barefoot on the 27th of June, drink 
of the water, wash in it, and then, holding themselves freed from 
all past sin, return to the old worldly life, and begin again after 
the usual fashion the old routine of business or pleasure, or reckless 
folly, conscious that they could come once more the following 
year and clear off all the accumulated stains of an ill life by a 
lavation in the holy well. 

A number of yellow crystals are found near, which the people 
Bay grow in the rocks in one night upon Midsummer Eve. And 
these crystals have power to avert all evil and bring luck and 
blessing to a house and family, and certain words are said while 
gathering them, known only to the adepts. The crystals are, 
however, very plentiful, and are found scattered for a space of two 


miles round the well, and in the crannies of the rocks. When 
burned in a crucible they become pure lime in one hour, and the 
powder ferments with spirits of vitriol ; yet the waters of the well 
when analyzed present no appearance of lime. 

At one time an effort was made to change the name of Lough 
Neagh to Lough Chichester, in honour of the Lord Deputy, Sir 
Arthur Chichester, but the Irish would not accept the new 
baptism, and the old name still remains unchanged. 


At Toome Island there is the ruin of an ancient church, where 
the dead walk on November Eve. It is a solemn and sacred 
place, and nothing is allowed to be taken from it ; neither stone 
nor branch of the shadowing trees, for fear of angering the spirits. 
One day three men who were on the island cut down some branches 
of an elder-tree that grew there to repair a private still, and car- 
ried them off in their boat ; but when just close to the shore a 
violent gust of wind upset the boat, and the men were drowned. 
The wood, however, floated back to the island, and a cross was 
made of it which was erected on the beach, to commemorate the 
fate of the doomed men. 

It is recorded, also, that a certain stone having been taken away 
by some masons from the ancient ruin, to build into the wall of 
the parish church, which they were erecting in the place, the 
water in the town well suddenly began to diminish, and at last 
dried up, to the great consternation and terror of the inhabitants, 
who were at their wits' end to know the cause ; when luckily an 
old woman of the place dreamed a dream about the abduction of 
the stone, which gave the solution of the mystery. 

At once the people took the matter into their own hands, and 
they went in a body and cast down the wall till they came on the 
stone, which was then placed in a boat, and carried back with 
solemn ceremonial to the island, where it was replaced in its 
original site, and, immediately after, the water flowed back again 
into the well, and the supply became even more copious than ever. 


Nbab the great mountain of Croagh-Patrick there is a lake called 
Clonvencagh, or the Lake of Eevenge, to which evil-disposed per- 


sons used to resort in order to imprecate maledictions on their 
enemies. It was the custom also to erect monuments round the 
well by placing on end a long flagstone, and heaping round it a 
pyramid of sand in order to keep it fixed firmly in its place. Over 
these pillar-stones certain mystic rites were then performed by 
the pilgrims, and prayers were said which took the form of the 
most terrible imprecations. It was therefore with awe and terror 
that one man said of another, " He has been cursed by the stone," 


Scenes of holy faith, of tender love, and human pity are, how- 
ever, happily more frequent amongst the devotees at the holy 
wells of Ireland than the fierce mutterings of malediction. At 
these sacred places may be seen the mother praying for her child, 
the girl for her lover, the wife for her husband ; going the rounds 
on their bare knees, with the crucifix in their clasped hands and 
their eyes raised to heaven in silent prayer, with a divine faith 
that this prayer will be answered ; and who can say but that the 
fervour of the supplication has often brought down the blessing 
of healing for the sick, or comfort for the sorrowing ? The pic- 
turesque grouping round the holy well, the background of purple 
mountains, the antique stone cross at which the pilgrims kneel, 
the costumes and often the beautiful faces of the praying women, 
with their long dark hair and purple Irish eyes, form a scene of 
wonderful poetic and dramatic interest, which has been immor- 
talized by Sir Frederick Burton in his great national picture, The 
Blind Girl at the Holy Well — a work that at once made the 
young painter famous, and laid the foundation of the subsequent 
career of this distinguished and perfect artist, 


Lough Foyle means the borrowed lake, for in old times there 
were two weird sisters dwelling beyond the Shannon, who were 
skilled in necromancy, And the elder sister said to the younger — • 

" Give me the loan of your silver lake, for I have none ; and I 
promise to restore it to you next Monday." 

So the younger, being good-natured, rolled up the lake in a 
sheet and despatched it over hills and dales to her sister. But 
when the time came for return, the elder sister, being deceitful 
and cunning, made answer to the messenger sent for it— 


"Truly, I said Monday, but I meant the Day of Judgment. 
So I shall keep the lake till then." 

And the lake therefore remains in her country to this day, 
while the great hollow whence it was taken can still be seen m 
Connaught, bare and barren, waiting for the waters that never 
will return. 


At the head of Lough Comb, deep in the water about a gunshot 
from the land, stands the ancient castle of Cai$leen-na-Cearca, 
said to have been built in one night by a cock and a hen, but in 
reality it was founded by the ill-fated Roderick O'Connor, the last 
king of Ireland. Strange lights are sometimes seen flitting 
through it, and on some particular midnight a crowd of boats 
gather round it, filled with men dressed in green with red sashes. 
And they row about till the cock crows, when they suddenly 
vanish and the cries of children are heard in the air. Then the 
people know that there has been a death somewhere in the region, 
and that the Sidhe have been stealing the young mortal children, 
and leaving some ill-favoured brat in the cradle in place of the 
true child. 

The old castle has many historic memories ; the celebrated 
Graina Uaile, the great chief tainess of the West, made it her 
abode for some time, and carried thither the young heir of Howth, 
whom she had abducted from Howth Castle, when on one of her 
piratical expeditions. Afterwards, during the "Wars of Elizabeth, 
a distinguished lady of the sept of the O'Flaherties, Bevinda 
O'Flahertie, shut herself up there with her only daughter and 
heiress, and a following of twenty resolute men. But further to 
ensure her safety, she wrote to the Queen, requesting permission 
to arm the guard ; Queen Elizabeth in return sent an autograph 
letter granting the request, but addressed to " her good friend, 
Captain Bevan O'Flahertie," evidently thinking that the custodian 
of such a castle must certainly be a man. 

In the solemn solitude of this picturesque and stately Caisleen- 
na-Cearca, the great lake fortress of Lough Corrib, with its 
rampart of purple mountains and its water pathway fifty miles 
long, the young heiress grew up tall and beautiful, the pride of 
the west. And in due time she married Blake of Menlo Castle. 
And from this historic pair is descended the present baronet and 
owner of the property, Sir John Blake of Menlo. 

Cromwell ruthlessly dismantled the castle, and it has remained 
a ruin ever since ; but the massive walls, and the beautiful twelfth 
century ornamentation of doors and windows still attest the 


ancient grandeur of the edifice, before " the curse of Cromwell 
fell upon it, and upon the country and on the people of Ireland, 


Every one knows that Sliabh-Mish, County Kerry, is haunted. 
The figure of a man, accompanied by a huge black dog, is fre- 
quently seen standing on a high crag, but as the traveller 
approaches, the forms disappear, although they rise up again 
before him on another crag, and so continue appearing and dis- 
appearing as he journeys on. Many travellers have seen them, 
but no one has ever yet been able to meet the man and the dog 
face to face on the mountain side, for they seem to melt away in 
the mist, and are seen no more on reaching the spot. It happened, 
once upon a time, that a man journeying alone over the mountain 
path, took out his snuff-box to solace himself with a pinch, and 
was putting it up again in his waistcoat pocket, when he heard a 
voice near him saying, " Not yet ! not yet ! I am near you, wait." 

He looked round, but not a soul was to be seen. However, ha 
thought it right to be friendly, so he shook some snuff from the 
box in the palm of his hand and held it out in the air. But his 
hair stood on end, and he trembled with fright, when he felt 
invisible fingers on his hand picking up the snuff, and when he 
drew it back the snuff had disappeared. 

" God and the saints between us and harm ! " exclaimed the 
poor man, ready to drop down from terror. 

"Amen," responded the clear voice of some invisible speaker 
close beside him. 

Then the man quickly made the sign of the cross over the hand 
touched by the spirit, and so went on his way unharmed, 


The Skellig Rocks are situated about eleven miles from the 
mainland, and are considered of great sanctity. In the Middle 
Ages, during the penitential weeks of Lent, the monks used to 
leave the adjacent convent and retire to the Skelligs Bocks for 
silence, prayer, and abstinence. Several ancient stone-roofed cells 
are still in existence at the top of the rock, showing where they 
dwelt. These cells are of the most ancient cyclopean order of 
building known in Ireland, and are far older than the church near 
them, which does not date earlier than the seventh century. 


Certainly no place more awful in its loneliness and desolation 
could be imagined than the summit of the bleak rock, reached 
only by a narrow way, almost inaccessible, even to those accus- 
tomed to climb precipitous paths, but which makes the ordinary 
traveller giddy with fear and dread. 

As marriages were not allowed in Lent, it became a custom for 
the young people of both sexes to make a pilgrimage to the 
Skellig Rocks during the last Lenten week. A procession was 
formed of the young girls and bachelors, and tar-barrels were 
lighted to guide them on the dangerous paths. The idea was to 
spend the week in prayer, penance, and lamentation; the girls 
praying for good husbands, the bachelors repenting of their sins. 
But the proceedings gradually degenerated into such a mad 
carnival of dancing, drinking, and fun, that the priests denounced 
the pilgrimage, and forbade the annual migration to the Skelligs. 
Still the practice was continued until the police had orders to 
clear the rocks. Thus ended the ancient custom of " going to the 
Skelligs : " for the mayor having pronounced judgment over the 
usage as " subversive of all morality and decorum," it was entirely 
discontinued ; and the wild fun and frolic of the Skelligs is now 
but a tradition preserved in the memory of the oldest inhabitant. 


From tlie earliest ages tlie world lias believed in tlie existence of 
a race midway between the angel and man, gifted with power to 
exercise a strange mysterious influence over human destiny. The 
Persians called this mystic race Peris ; the Egyptians and the Greeks 
named them demons, not as evil, but as mysterious allies of man, 
iuvisible though ever present ; capable of kind acts but implacable 
if offended. 

The Irish called them the Sidhe, or spirit-race, or the Feadh- 
Mee, a modification of the word Peri. Their country is the Tir- 
na-oge, the land of perpetual youth, where they live a life of joy 
and beauty, never knowing disease or death, which is not to come 
on them till the judgment day, when they are fated to pass into 
annihilation, to perish utterly and be seen no more. They can 
assume any form and they make horses out of bits of straw, on 
which they ride over the country, and to Scotland and back. 
They have no religion, but a great dread of the Scapular (Latin 
words from the Gospels written by a priest and hung round the 
neck). Their power is great over unbaptized children, and such 
generally grow up evil and have the evil eye, and bring ill luck, 
unless the name of God is instantly invoked when they look at 
any one fixedly and in silence. 

All over Ireland the fairies have the reputation of being very 
beautiful, with long yellow hair sweeping the ground, and lithe 
light forms. They love milk and honey, and sip the nectar from 
the cups of the flowers, which is their fairy wine. 

Underneath the lakes, and deep down in the heart of the hills, 
they have their fairy palaces of pearl and gold, where they live in 
splendour and luxury, with music and song and dancing and 
laughter and all joyous things as befits the gods of the earth. If 
our eyes were touched by a fairy salve we could see them dancing 
on the hill in the moonlight. They are served on vessels of gold, 
and each fairy chief, to mark his rank, wears a circlet of gold 
round his head. 

The Sidhe race were once angels in heaven, but were cast out as 


a punishment for their pride. Some fell to earth, others were 
cast into the sea, while many were seized by demons and carried 
down to hell, whence they issue as evil spirits, to tempt men to 
destruction under various disguises ; chiefly, however, as beautiful 
young maidens, endowed with the power of song and gifted with 
the most enchanting wiles. Under the influence of these beautiful 
sirens a man will commit any and every crime. Then when his 
soul is utterly black they carry him down to hell, where he remains 
for ever tortured by the demons to whom he sold himself. 

The fairies are very numerous, more numerous than the human 
race. In their palaces underneath the hills and in the lakes and 
the sea they hide away much treasure. All the treasure of 
wrecked ships is theirs j and all the gold that men have hidden 
and buried in the earth when danger was on them, and then died 
and left no sign of the place to their descendants. And all the 
gold of the mine and the jewels of the rocks belong to them ; and 
in the Sifra, or fairy-house, the walls are silver and the pavement 
is gold, and the banque1>-hall is lit by the glitter of the diamonds 
that stud the rocks. 

If you walk nine times round a fairy rath at the full of the 
moon, you will find the entrance to the Sifra ; but if you enter, 
beware of eating the fairy food or drinking the fairy wine. The 
Sidhe will, indeed, wile and draw many a young man into the 
fairy dance, for the fairy women are beautiful, so beautiful that a 
man's eyes grow dazzled who looks on them, with their long hair 
floating like the ripe golden corn and their robes of silver 
gossamer ; they have perfect forms, and their dancing is beyond 
all expression graceful ; but if a man is tempted to kiss a Sigh- 
oge, or young fairy spirit, in the dance, he is lost for ever — the 
madness of love will fall on him, and he will never again be able 
to return to earth or to leave the enchanted fairy palace. He is 
dead to his kindred and race for ever more. 

On Fridays the fairies have special power over all things, and 
chiefly on that day they select and carry off the young mortal 
girls as brides for the fairy chiefs. But after seven years, when 
the girls grow old and ugly, they send them back to their kindred, 
giving them, however, as compensation, a knowledge of herbs and 
philtres and secret spells, by which they can kill or cure, and have 
power over men both for good and evil. 

It is in this way the wise women and fairy doctors have 
acquired their knowledge of the mysteries and the magic of herbs. 
But the fairies do not always keep the mortal women in a seven 
years' bondage. They sometimes only take away young girls for 
a dance in the moonlight, and then leave them back in their own 
home lulled in a sweet sleep. But the vision of the night was so 
beautiful that the young girls long to dream again and be made 
happy with the soft enchantments of the music and dance. 



The fairies are passionately fond of music; it is therefore 
dangerous for a young girl to sing when she is all alone by the 
lake, for the spirits will draw her down to them to sing to them 
in the fairy palace under the waves, and her people will see her no 
more. Yet sometimes when the moonlight is on the water, and 
the waves break against the crystal columns of the fairy palace 
far down in the depths, they can hear her voice, and they know 
that she is singing to the fairies in the spirit land beneath the 
waters of the lake. 

There was a girl in one of the villages that could see things no 
one else saw, and hear music no one else heard, for the fairies loved 
her and used to carry her away by night in a dream to dance with 
the fairy chiefs and princes. But, above all, she was loved by 
Finvarra the king, and used to dance with him all night till sun- 
rise though her form seemed to be lying asleep on the bed. 

One day she told some of her young companions that she was 
going that night to a great fairy dance on the rath, and if they 
chose she would bring them and put a salve on their eyes so that 
they would see wonders. 

The young girls went with her, and on coming to the rath she 
said — 

,( Now put your foot on my foot and look over my left shoulder, 
and you will see the king and queen and all the beautiful lords and 
ladies with gold bands round their heads dancing on the grass. But 
take care when you see them to make no sign of the cross, nor 
speak the name of God, or they will vanish away, and perhaps 
even your life would be in danger." 

On hearing this the girls ran away in fear and terror without 
ever using the spell or seeing the fairies. But the other remained, 
and told her friends next day that she had danced all night to the 
fairy music, and had heard the sweetest singing, so that she longed 
to go back and live for ever with the spirits on the hill. 

And her wish was granted, for she died soon after, and on the 
night of her death soft music was heard floating round the house, 
though no one was visible. And it was said also that beautiful 
flowers grew on her grave, though no hand planted them there, 
and shadowy forms used to gather in the moonlight and sing alow 
chant over the place where she was laid. 

The fairies can assume all forms when they have special ends in 
view, such as to carry off a handsome girl to Fairyland. For this 
purpose they sometimes appear at the village festivities as tall, 
dark, noble-looking gentlemen, and they wile away the young 
girls as partners in the dance by their grand air and the grace of 
their dancing. And ever after the young girl who has danced 
with them moves and dances with a special fairy grace, though 
sometimes she pines away and seems to die, but every one knows 
that her soul has been carried off to the Tir-na-oge, where she 


will be made the bride of the fairy king and live in luxury and 
splendour evermore, 

Yet, though the fairies are fond of pleasure, they are tem- 
perate in their mode of living, and are besides honest in their 
dealings and faithful to their promises. If they borrow wine from 
the gentry they always repay it in blessings, and never indulge 
much in eating or drinking. But they have no objection to 
offer to mortals the subtle red wine at the fairy banquets, which 
lulls the soul to sleep and makes the reason powerless. The 
young men that they beguile into their fairy palaces become their 
bond-slaves, and are set to hard tasks. One man said he had 
marched with Finvarra's men all the way from Mayo to Cork, but 
there they had to leave him as they were going to Spain and 
could not take him across the sea on their white horses. 

They also much desire the aid of a powerful mortal hand to 
assist them in their fairy wars, for they have often disputes and 
battles amongst themselves for the possession of some coveted 
rath or dancing ground. 

Once a fairy prince came to a great chieftain of Connaught, 
one of the Kirwans, and begged for aid against a hostile fairy 
tribe that had invaded his territories. The required aid being 
given, the fairies and their mortal auxiliaries plunged into the 
lake and fought the enemy and conquered ; after which the Con- 
naught men returned to shore laden with rich presents of silver 
and gold and crystal wine-cups as the expression of gratitude from 
the fairy prince. 

It is said that Kirwan of Castle Hackett, the great Connaught 
chief, also received a beautiful fairy bride on that occasion, and it 
is certain that all the female descendants of the family are noted 
for their beauty, their grace in dancing, and their sweet voices in 
speaking. Lady Cloncurry, mother of the present Lord Cloncurry, 
was of this race, and in her youth was the acknowledged leading 
beauty of the Irish Court and celebrated for the rare fascination 
of her manner and voice, 


The fairies, with their true artistic love of all the gentle graces 
of life, greatly dislike coarse and violent gestures, and all athletic 
sports, such as hurling and wrestling ; and they often try to put 
an end to them by some evil turn. 

One day a great cloud of dust came along the road during 
a hurling match and stopped the game. On this the people 
grew alarmed, for they said the fairies are out hunting and 



will do us harm by blinding us ; and thousands of the Sidhe 
swept by, raising a terrific dust, though, no mortal eye could see 

Then one man, a good player and musician, ran for his fiddle 
and began to play some vigorous dance tunes, "for now/' said he, 
" the fairies will begin to dance and forget us, and they will be 
off in no time to hold a revel on the rath to the music of their 
own fairy pipes." 

And so it was, for at once the whirlwind of dust swept on to 
the hill of the fairy rath, and the hurling ground was left clear 
for the game to go on again in safety. 

It must be acknowledged that the fairies are a little selfish, or 
they would not have interfered with the great national sport of 
hurling, which is the favourite amusement of the country, and 
used to be held as a high festival, and arranged with all the cere- 
monial of a tournament ; at least before the bad times destroyed 
all the fun and frolic of the peasant life. 

The prettiest girl of the village was chosen as the hurling 
girl — the Colleen-a-bhailia. Dressed in white, and accompanied 
by her maidens, she proceeded to the hurling ground, the piper 
and fiddlers going before her playing gay dance tunes. 

There she was met by the procession of the young men surround- 
ing the chief hurler — always a stalwart youth of over six feet. And 
the youth and the maiden joined hands and began the dance — all 
the people cheering. 

This was called the opening of the hurling. And for the next 
match another pair would be selected, each village girl anxiously 
hoping to be the Colleen-a-bhailia chosen to lead the ceremonial 
dance for the second or following games. Naturally the hurling 
tournament ended with a festive supper, much love-making, and 
many subsequent marriages between the pretty colleens and 
stalwart young hurlers, despite all the envy and jealousy of 
the fairies, who maliciously tried to mar the pleasures of the 


The fairies take great delight in horsemanship, and are splendid 
riders. Many fine young men are enticed to ride with them, 
when they d.ash along with the fairies like the wind, Finvarra 
himself leading, on his great black horse with the red nostrils, 
that look like flames of fire. And ever after the young men are 
the most fearless riders in the country, so the people know at once 
that they have hunted with the fairies. And after the hunt some 
favourite of the party is taken to a magnificent supper in the 


fairy palace, and when he has drunk of the bright red wine 
they lull him to sleep with soft music. But never again can 
he find the fairy palace, and he looks in vain for the handsome 
horseman on his fine black steed, with all the gay young hunts- 
men in their green velvet dresses, who rushed over the field with 
him, like a flash of the storm wind. They have passed away for 
ever from his vision, like a dream of the night. 

Once on a time a gentleman, also one of the Kirwans of Galway, 
was riding by the fairy hill — where all the fairies of the West 
hold their councils and meetings, under the rule of Finvarra the 
king — when a strange horseman, mounted on a fiery black steed, 
suddenly appeared. But as the stranger bid him the time of day 
with distinguished grace, Mr. Kirwan returned his greeting 
courteously, and they rode on together side by side, discoursing 
pleasantly — for the stranger seemed to know every one and every- 
thing, though Mr. Kirwan could not remember ever having seen 
him before. 

*\Now," said the black horseman, " I know that you are to be at 
the races to-morrow, so just let me give you a hint : if you wish 
to be certain of winning, allow me to send you my man to ride 
your horse. He never failed in a race yet, and he shall be with 
you early, before the start." 

"With that, at a turn of the road, the stranger disappeared ; for 
he was no other than Finvarra himself, who had a friendly liking 
for the tribe of the Kirwans, because all the men were generous 
who came of the blood, and all the women handsome. 

Next morning, as Mr. Kirwan was setting out for the race, his 
groom told him that a young jockey was waiting to see him. He 
was the strangest looking little imp, Mr. Kirwan thought, he had 
ever set eyes on, but he felt compelled to give him all the rights 
and power that was necessary for the race, and the young imp 
was off in a moment, like a flash of lightning. 

Mr. Kirwan knew no more — he seemed like one in a dream — 
till the silver cup was handed to him as winner of the race, and 
congratulations poured down on him, and every one asked eagerly 
where he got the wonderful jockey who seemed to make the horse 
fly like the spirit of the wind itself. But the jockey by this time 
had disappeared. However, the stranger on the black horse was 
there, and he constrained Mr. Kirwan to come with him to 
dinner ; and they rode on pleasantly, as before, till they reached 
a grand, beautiful house, with a crowd of gorgeous servants 
waiting on the steps to receive the lord and master and his 

One of them led Mr. Kirwan to his room to dress for dinner, 
and there he found a costly suit of violet velvet ready, in which 
the valet arrayed him. Then he entered the dining-hall. It was 
all lit up splendidly, and there were garlands of flowers twining 


round crystal columns, and golden cups set with jewels for the 
wine, and golden dishes. 

The host seemed an accomplished man of the world, and did 
the honours with perfect grace. Conversation flowed freely, 
while soft music was heard at intervals from invisible players, 
and Mr. Kirwan could not resist the charm and beauty of the 
scene, nor the bright red wine that his host poured out for him 
into the jewelled cups. 

Then, when the banquet was over, a great crowd of ladies and 
gentlemen came in and danced to sweet low music, and they 
circled round the guest and tried to draw him into the dance. 
But when he looked at them it seemed to him that they were 
all the dead he had once known ; for his own brother was there, 
that had been drowned in the lake a year before ; and a man who 
had been killed by a fall when hunting ; and others whose faces 
he knew well. And they were all pale as death, but their eyes 
burned like coals of fire. 

And as he looked and wondered, a lovely lady came over to 
him, wearing a necklace of pearls. And she clasped his wrist 
with her little hand, and tried to draw him into the circle. 

" Dance with me," she whispered, " dance with me again. Look 
at me, for you once loved me." 

And when he looked at her he knew that she was dead, and the 
clasp of her hand was like a ring of fire round his wrist ; and he 
drew back in terror, for he saw that she was a beautiful girl he had 
loved in his youth, and to whom he had given a necklace of 
pearls, but who died before he could make her his bride. 

Then his heart sank with fear and dread, and he said to his host — 

" Take me from this place. I know the dancers ; they are dead. 
Why have you brought them up from their graves ? " 

But the host only laughed and said, "You must take more 
wine to keep up your courage." And he poured him out a goblet 
of wine redder than rubies. 

And when he drank it, all the pageant and the music and the 
crowd faded away from before his eyes, and he fell into a pro- 
found sleep, and knew no more till he found himself at home, 
laid on his bed. And the servant told him that a strange horse- 
man had accompanied him to the door late in the night, who had 
charged them to lay the master gently in his bed and by no 
means to awake him till noon next day, for he was weary after 
the race; and he bade them take the hunter to the stables and 
tend him carefully, for the animal was covered with foam, and all 

; At noon Mr. Kirwan awoke, and rose up as well as ever : but of 
all the fairy revels nothing remained to him but the mark round 
his wrist of the clasp of a woman's hand, that seemed burned into 
his flesh 


So he knew the night's adventure was no mere dream of the fancy, 
and the mark of the dead hand remained with him to his last 
hour, and the form of the young girl with her necklace of pearls 
often came before him in a vision of the night; hut he never 
again visited the fairy palace, and never saw the dark horseman 
any more. As to the silver cup, he flung it into the lake, for he 
thought it had come to him by devil's magic and would bring no 
good luck to him or to his race. So it sank beneath the waves, and 
the silver cup was seen no more. 


Sometimes the fairies appear like old men and women, and thus 
gain admission to houses that they may watch and spy, and 
bewitch the butter, and abduct the children, and carry off the 
young girls for fairy brides. 

There was a man in the west who was bedridden for seven 
years, and could do no work and had to be lifted by others when 
he moved. Yet the amount of food he consumed was enormous, 
and as every one pitied him, people were constantly bringing him 
all sorts of good things ; and he ate up everything but grew no 

Now on Sundays when the family went to mass, they locked 
him up, but left him plenty of food, for there was no one in the 
house to help him. One Sunday, however, they left chapel earlier 
than usual, and as they were going by the shore they saw a great 
crowd of strangers hurling, and in the midst of them, hurling and 
running and leaping, was the sick man, as well and jolly as ever a 
man could be. They called out to him, on which he turned round 
to face them, but that instant he disappeared. 

So the family hastened home, unlocked the door, and went 
straight up to the room, where they found the man in bed as 
usual, thin and weak and unable to move ; but he had eaten up all 
the food and was now crying out for more. On this the family 
grew very angry and cried, " You have been deceiving us. You 
are in league with the witch-folk ; but we'll soon see what you 
really are, for if you don't get up out of that bed at once, we'll 
make down a fire and lay you on it, and make you walk." 

Then he cried and roared : but they seized him to drag him to 
the fire. So when he saw they were in earnest he jumped up and 
rushed to the door, and before they could touch him he had 
disappeared, and was seen no more. 

Now, indeed, they knew that he was in league with the devil, 
and they burned his bed and everything belonging to him, and 


poured holy water on the room. And when all was burned, 
nothing remained but a black stone with strange signs on it. And 
by this, no doubt, he performed his enchantments. And the 
people were afraid of it and gave it to the priest, who has it to 
this day, so there can be no doubt as to the truth of the story. 

And the priest knows the hidden meaning of the strange signs 
which give power to the stone ; but will reveal the secret to no 
one, lest the people might try to work devil's magic with it, and 
unlawful spells by the power of the stone and the power of the 


One day a fine, handsome young fellow, called JemmyfNowlan, 
set off to walk to the fair at Slane, whither some cattle of his had 
been sent off for sale that same morning early. And he was 
dressed in his best clothes, spruce and neat ; and not one in all the 
county round could equal Jemmy Nowlan for height, strength, or 
good looks. So he went along quite gay and merry in himself, till 
he came to a lonely bit of the road where never a soul was to be 
seen ; but just then the sky became black-dark, as if thunder were 
in the air, and suddenly he heard the tramp of a horse behind 
him. On turning round he saw a very dark, elegant looking 
gentleman, mounted on a black horse, riding swiftly towards him. 

"Jemmy Nowlan," said the dark horseman, " I have been looking 
for you all along the road. Get up now, quickly, behind me, and I'll 
carry you in no time to the great fair of Slane ; for, indeed, I am 
going there myself, and it would be very pleasant to have your 

" Thank your honour kindly," said Jemmy ; " but it's not for 
the likes of me to ride with your lordship ; so I would rather 
walk, if it's pleasing to your honour ; but thanks all the same." 

Truth to tell, Jemmy in his own mind had a fear of the strange 
gentleman and his black horse, and distrusted them both, for had 
he not heard the people tell strange stories of how young men had 
been carried off by the fairies, and held prisoners by their en- 
chantments down deep in the heart of the hill under the earth, 
where never a mortal could see them again or know their fate j 
and they were only allowed to come up and see their kindred on 
the nights the dead walked, and then they walked with them as 
they rose from the graves ? So again he began to make his 
excuses, and meanwhile kept looking round for some path by 
which he could escape if possible. 

"Come now," said the dark horseman, "this is all nonsense, 
Jemmy Nowlan ; you really must come with me." 


And with that he stooped down and touched him lightly on the 
shoulder with his whip, and in an instant Jemmy found himself 
seated on the horse, and galloping away like the wind with the 
dark horseman ; and they never stopped nor stayed till they came 
to a great castle in a wood, where a whole set of servants in green 
and gold were waiting on the steps to receive them. And they 
were the smallest people Jemmy had ever seen in his life ; but he 
made no remark, for they were very civil, and crowded round to 
know what they could do for him. 

" Take him to a room and let him dress," said the gentleman, 
who appeared to own the castle. And in the room Jemmy found 
a beautiful suit of velvet, and a cap and feather. And when the 
little servants had dressed him they led him to the large hall that 
was all lit up and hung with garlands of flowers ; and music and 
dancing were going on, and many lovely ladies were present, but 
not one in the hall was handsomer than Jemmy Nowlan in his 
velvet suit and cap and feather. 

" Will you dance with me, Jemmy Nowlan ? " said one lovely 

" No, Jemmy : you must dance with me," said another. 

And they all fought for him, so he danced with them all, one 
after the other, the whole night through, till he was dead tired 
and longed to lie down and sleep. 

" Take Jemmy Nowlan to his room, and put him to bed," said 
the gentleman to a red-haired man ; " but first he must tell me a 

" I have no story, your honour," said Jemmy, " for I am not 
book-learned ; but I am very tired, let me lie down and sleep." 

" Sleep, indeed," said the gentleman; "not if I can help it. 
Here, Davy " — and he called the red-haired man — " take Jemmy 
Nowlan and put him out ; he can tell no story. I will have no 
one here who can't tell me a story. Put him out, he is not worth 
his supper." 

So the red-haired man thrust Jemmy out at the castle gate, and 
he was just settling himself to sleep on a bench outside, when 
three men came by bearing a coffin. 

" Oho, Jemmy Nowlan," they said, u you are welcome. We just 
wanted a fourth man to carry the coffin." 

And they made him get under it with them, and away they 
marched over hedge and ditch, and field and bog, through briars 
and thorns, till they reached the old churchyard in the valley, and 
then they stopped/ 

" Who will dig a grave ? " said one. 

" Let us draw lots," said another. 

And the lot fell on Jemmy. So they gave him a spade, and he 
worked and worked till the grave was dug broad and deep. 

" This is not the right place at all for a grave," said the leader 


of the party when the grave was finished. "I'll have no one 
buried in this spot, for the bones of my father rest here." 

So they had to take up the coffin again, and carry it on over field 
and bog till they reached another churchward, where Jemmy was 
obliged to dig a second grave ; and when it was finished, the 
leader cried out — 

" Who shall we place in the coffin ? " 

And another voice answered — 

" We need draw no lots ; lay Jemmy Nowlan in the coffin ! " 

And the men seized hold of him and tried to cast him to the 
ground. But Jemmy was strong and powerful, and fought them 
all. Still they would not let go their hold, though he dealt them 
such blows as would have killed any other men. And at last he 
felt faint, for he had no weapon to fight with, and his strength 
was going. 

Then he saw that the leader carried a hazel switch in his hand, 
and he knew that a hazel switch brought luck; so he made a 
sudden spring and seized it, and whirled it three times round his 
head, and struck right and left at his assailants, when a strange 
and wondrous thing happened ; for the three men who were ready 
to kill him, fell down at once to the ground, and remained there 
still as the dead. And the coffin stood white in the moonlight by 
itself, and no hand touched it, and no voice spoke. 

But Jemmy never waited to look or think, for the fear of the 
men was on him, lest they should rise up again ; so he fled away, 
still holding the hazel twig in his hand, and ran on over field and 
bog, through briars and thorns, till he found himself again at the 
castle gate. Then all the grand servants came out, and the little 
men, and they said — 

" You are welcome, Jemmy Nowlan. Come in ; his lordship is 
waiting for you." 

And they brought him to a room where the lord was lying on a 
velvet couch, and he said — • 

" Now, young man, tell me a story, for no one in my castle is 
allowed to eat, drink, or sleep till they have related something 
wonderful that has happened to them." 

"Then, my lord," said Jemmy, "I can tell you the most 
wonderful of stories ; and very proud I am to be able to amuse 
your lordship." 

So he told him the story of the three men and the coffin, and 
the lord was so pleased that he ordered the servants to bring the 
youth a fine supper, and the best of wine, and Jemmy ate like a 
prince from gold dishes, and drank from crystal cups of the wine, 
and had the best of everything; but after the supper he felt 
rather queer and dazed-like, and fell down on the ground asleep 
like one dead. 

After that he knew nothing till he awoke next morning, and 


found himself lying under a haystack in his own field, and all his 
beautiful clothes were gone — the velvet suit and cap and feather 
that he had looked so handsome in at the dance, when all the fine 
ladies fell in love with him. Nothing was left to him of all the 
night's adventure save the hazel twig, which he still held firmly 
in his hand. 

And a very sad and down-hearted man was Jemmy Nowlan 
that day, especially when the herd came to tell him that none of 
the cattle were sold at the fair, for the men were waiting for the 
master, and wondering why he did not come to look after his 
money, while all the other farmers were selling their stock at the 
finest prices. 

And Jemmy Nowlan has never yet made out why the fairies 
played him such a malicious and ill turn as to prevent him sell- 
ing his cattle. But if ever again he meets that dark stranger on 
the black horse, he is determined to try the strength of his shille- 
lagh on his head, were he ever such a grand man among the 
fairies. For at least he might have left him the velvet suit ; 
and it was a shabby thing to take it away just when he couldn't 
help himself, and had fallen down from fair weakness and exhaus- 
tion after all the dancing, and the wine he drank at supper, when 
the lovely; ladies poured it out for him with their little hands 
covered with jewels. 

It was truly a bad and shabby trick, as Jemmy said to himself 
that May morning, when he stood up from under the hay-rick ; 
and just shows us never to trust the fairies, for with ail their 
sweet words and pleasant ways and bright red wine, they are full 
of malice and envy and deceit, and are always ready to ruin 
a poor fellow and then laugh at him, just for fun, and for the 
spite and jealousy they have against the human race. 


There is an old ruin of a farmhouse in the County Cork, near 
Fermoy, that has an evil reputation, and no one would build it up 
or inhabit it. 

Years and years ago a rich farmer lived there, who was reputed 
to have hoards of gold hid away in his sleeping-room. Some 
said he never slept without the sack of gold being laid under his 
pillow. However, one night he was found cruelly murdered, and 
all the gold in the house was missing except a few pieces stained 
with blood, that had evidently bsen dropped by the murderers in 
their flight. 

The old man at the time was Uving quite alone. His wife was 


dead, and his only son was away in a distant part of the country. 
But on news of the murder the "son returned, and a close investi- 
gation was made. Suspicion finally fell on the housekeeper and 
a lover she used to bring to the house. They were arrested in 
consequence and brought to trial. The housekeeper, Sheela-na- 
Skean, or Sheela of the Knife, as she was called afterwards, was a 
dark, fierce, powerful woman, noted for her violent and vindictive 
temper. The lover was a weak, cowardly fellow, who at the last 
turned evidence to save his life. He had taken no part, he said, 
in the actual murder, though he had helped Sheela to remove 
and bury the gold. According to his story, Sheela entered the 
old man's room at night, and taking a sharp short sword that 
always hung at the head of his bed, she stabbed him fiercely over 
and over till not a breath of life was left. Then, calling her 
lover, they ransacked the room, and found quantities of golden 
guineas, which they put in a bag and carried out to the field, 
where they buried it in a safe spot, known only to themselves ; 
but this place neither Sheela nor the lover would reveal unless 
they received a pardon. 

The murder, however, was too atrocious for pardon, and Sheela 
was hung amid the howlings and execrations of the people. But 
she remained fierce and defiant to the last, still refusing obsti- 
nately to reveal the place where the money was buried. 

The lover, meanwhile, had died in prison from fright, for after 
sentence was pronounced, he fell down in a fit, from which he 
never recovered. So the secret of the gold died with them.! 

After this the son came to live in the place ; and the tradition 
of the hidden gold was still kept alive in the family, but all 
efforts to find it proved useless. 

Now a strange thing happened. The farmer dreamed for three 
nights in succession that if he went at midnight to an old ruined 
castle in the neighbourhood, he would hear words that might tell 
him the secret of the gold ; but he must go alone. So after the 
third dream the farmer resolved to do as he was ordered, and he 
went forth at midnight to the place indicated. His two sons, 
grown-up young men, anxiously awaited his return. And about 
an hour after midnight the father came home pale as a ghost, 
haggard and trembling. They helped him to his bed, and after a 
little he was able to tell them his adventures. He said, on reach- 
ing the old ruin he leaned up straight against the wall, and waited 
for the promised words in silence. Then a breath seemed to pass 
over his face, and he heard a low voice whispering in his ear — 

" If you want to find the bag of gold, take out the third 

"But here," said the farmer mournfully, "the voice stopped 
before the place was named where the gold lay; for at that 
instant a terrific screech was heard, and the ghost of Sheela 


appeared gigantic and terrible ; her hands dripping with blood, 
and her eyes flaming fire ; and she rushed to attack me, brandish- 
ing a short, sharp sword round her head, the very same, perhaps, 
with which she had committed the murder. At sight of this 
awful apparition I fled homeward, Sheela still pursuing me with 
leaps and yells till I reached the boundary of the castle grounds, 
when she sank into the earth and disappeared. But," continued 
the farmer, " I am certain, from the voice, that the bag of gold 
lies hid under the third stone in " 

He could say no more, for at that instant the door of the bed- 
room was violently flung open, as if by a strong storm wind, the 
candle was blown out, and the unfortunate man was lifted from 
his bed by invisible hands, and dashed upon the floor with a ter- 
rible crash. In the darkness the young men could hear the groans, 
but they saw no one. 

When the candle was relit they went over to help their father, 
but found he was already dead, with a black mark round his 
throat as if from strangulation by a powerful hand. So the secret 
of the gold remained still undiscovered. 

After the funeral was over, and all affairs settled, the brothers 
agreed that they would still search for the gold in the old ruins 
of the castle, undeterred by the apparition of the terrible Sheela. 
So on a certain midnight they set forth with spades and big sticks 
for defence, and proceeded to examine every third stone in the 
huge walls, to the height of a man from the ground, seeking some 
secret mark or sign by which, perhaps, the true stone might be 
discovered. But as they worked, a thin blue light suddenly ap- 
peared at some distance in the inner court of the castle, and by it 
stood the ghost of their father, pointing with his outstretched 
hand to a certain stone in the wall. Now, they thought, that 
must certainly be the spot where the gold is hid ; and they rushed 
on ; but before they could reach the place, the terrible form of 
Sheela appeared, more awful than words could describe, clothed 
in white, and with a circle of flame round her head. And she 
seized the ghost with her gory hands, and dragged him away with 
horrible yells and imprecations. And far off in the darkness 
they could hear the fight going on, and the yells of Sheela as she 
pursued the ghost. 

" Now," said the young men, " let us work while they are 
fighting ; " and they worked away at the third stone from the 
end, where the blue light had rested — a large flat stone, but easily 
lifted ; and when they had rolled it away from the place, there 
underneath lay a huge bag of bright golden guineas. And as 
they raised it up from the earth, a terrific unearthly din was 
heard in the distance, and a shrill scream rang on the air. Then 
a rush of the wind came by them and the blue light vanished, 
but they heeded nothing, only lifted the bag from the clay, and 


carried it away with, them through the darkness and storm. And 
the yells seemed to pursue them till they reached the boundary 
of the castle grounds, then all was still ;" and they traversed the 
rest of the wav in peace, and reached home safely. 

From that time the ghost of Sheela-na-Sltean ceased to haunt 
the castle, but lamenting and cries used sometimes to be heard at 
night in and around the old farmhouse.; so the brothers pulled it 
down and left it a ruin, and built a handsome residence with 
some of their treasure; for now they had plenty of gold, and they 
lived happily and prospered ever after, with all their family and 
possessions. And on the spot where the gold was found they 
erected a cross, in memory of their father, to whom they owed all 
their wealth, and through whom this prosperity had come ; for by 
him the evil spirit of Sheela-na-Skean was conquered at last, and 
the gold restored to the family of the murdered farmer. 


About a hundred years ago a most notorious robber, called 
Captain Webb, used to make the County Mayo his headquarters ; 
and dreadful tales are still current amongst the people of his 
deeds of violence and cruelty. 

Many beautiful young girls he carried off by force or fraud ; 
and when he grew tired of them it was his practice to strip the 
unhappy victims naked, and plunge them down a deep hole near 
Lough Corrib, which is still known throughout the county as 
*< Captain "Webb's Hole." 

One day, however, fate worked out a revenge on the audacious 
highwayman by the hands of a woman. 

He had committed a daring robbery on the highroad — plun- 
dered a carriage, shot the horses, and carried off a noble and 
lovely girl, who was returning home with her mother from an 
entertainment, which had been given by a great lord in the 
vicinity. Consequently, as the robber knew, the ladies were 
dressed magnificently, and wore the most costly jewels. After 
stripping the mother of all her ornaments, he left her half dead 
upon the highway ; but wrapping a cloak round the young lady, 
Captain Webb flung her on the horse before him and galloped off 
to one of the many hiding-places he had through the country. 

For some time he gave up all his other favourites for the sake 
of the beautiful girl, and carried her about with him on all his 
wild expeditions, so great was the madness of his love for her. 

But at length he grew tired even of her beauty, and resolved to 


fet rid of her, in the same way as he had got rid of the others, 
y a cruel and sudden death. 

So one day, when she was out riding beside him, as he always 
forced her to do, he brought her to the fatal hole where so many 
of his victims had perished, intending to cast her down headlong 
as he had done to so many others ; but first he told her to dismount 
and to take off all her rich garments of silk and gold and her 
jewels, for she would need them no longer. 

" For pity, then," she said, "do not look on me while I undress, 
for it is not seemly or right to look on a woman undressing ; but 
turn your back and I shall unclasp my robe and fling it off." 

So the captain turned his back as she desired him, for he could 
not refuse her last request ; but still he kept close to the edge of 
the hole ready to throw her in ; when suddenly she sprang upon 
him, and placing both hands on his shoulders, pushed him over 
the edge down into the fathomless gulf, from which no mortal 
ever rose alive, and in this manner the country was freed for ever- 
more from the terrible robber fiend, by the courage of a brave 
and beautiful girl, 


Another desperate character that made an evil reputation in the 
same county was Captain Macnamara. Though a man of family 
and good means and of splendid appearance, he led a life of the 
wildest excess, and stopped at no crime so as he could gratify the 
passion or the caprice of the moment, or find money to spend on 
his pleasures, with the reckless, senseless, foolish extravagance of 
an evil, dissolute nature ; for he had early squandered away all 
his own patrimony, and now only lived by fraud, lying, and inso- 
lent contempt of the rights and claims of others. 

Just at the time when his finances were at the lowest, he was 
summoned to attend his trial at the county assizes for some mal- 
practices concerning land and stock belonging to a wealthy widow 
lady, who had a fine place in the neighbourhood, though she 
seldom lived there, being constantly abroad, in Paris or Rome, 
with her only son, a young lad, the heir of the property. It hap- 
pened, however, that she returned home just in time for the trial, 
which interested her, as it concerned an audacious appropriation 
of some of her best land from which the stock had been drawn off 
and sold by Macnamara. Highly indignant at the insult offered 
to her, the wealthy widow appeared in court resolved on venge- 
ance j and was received by all the officials with the utmost 


distinction and deference. The defendant was put through a 
most torturing examination, in which all his evil practices were 
laid bare with ruthless severity. But the widow heeded 
nothing of the record of wicked deeds ; she only saw before her a 
splendid stalwart man in the prime of life, with a magnificent 
presence, flashing eyes, and raven hair. At once she was sub- 
jugated, as if by magic, by the handsome prisoner in the dock, and 
calling over her counsel, she gave orders that the suit should be 
stopped and no damages claimed. After this, as was natural, a 
warm intimacy sprang up between plaintiff and defendant, which 
ended in a short time by the marriage of the rich widow and the 
spendthrift captain ; the widow's only son and heir to the estate 
being brought home from school to live with them, for, as the 
captain observed, it was necessary that the boy should be early in- 
structed in the management of the property. 

One evening, however, Macnamara set a rope across a lonely 
part of the road where he knew the lad must pass when riding 
home. In consequence the horse stumbled, and threw the rider ; 
and at night when the servants and people went out with torches 
to look for the young heir, he was found lying quite dead by the 

The whole property now devolved to the widow, who gave up 
the management entirely to Macnamara ; and he lost no time in 
making good use of the large sums of money that came under his 
control, by constantly plunging into renewed courses of dissolute 
extravagance. How the home life went on no one knew, for little 
was seen of the wife while the husband carried on his orgies ; but 
after a year had passed by, the country heard with surprise of the 
death of the rich widow, as she was still called — suddenly, it was 
said, by a fit, a stroke. She was found lying dead in her bed one 
morning, and her husband was in the greatest grief — this was the 
orthodox narrative. But strange whispers at the same time went 
through the neighbourhood, that round the neck of the poor dear 
lady was found a black mark, and many had grave suspicions 
of foul play, though they feared to take any measures against 
the captain, so great was the terror he inspired. 

Meantime, he consoled himself with another wife, a young girl 
who had been a favourite of his long before his first wife's death. 
And they led a reckless life together till all the widow's money 
was gambled away or spent in dissolute frolics. Then he joined a 
wild band of sharpers and desperadoes who fought and cheated 
every one at the fairs and races, and were the terror of the whole 
country. But, especially they warred upon the Big Joyces of 
Oonnemara, who thereupon swore to be revenged. 

Now the captain had a famous mare called JFeenish, who could 
fly like the wind and live for days without food. And he taught 
her all sorts of strange tricks — to stand on her hind legs, to go in 


at a window and to walk upstairs ; and the way the robber chief 
got the secret of power over men and animals was in this wise. 

There was an old raven lived near him up in a big tree, and one 
day Macnamara stole the eggs, took them home, boiled them and 
then set them back again in the nest, to see what the old bird 
would do. Now he saw the wisdom of the raven, for she flew off 
at once to a neighbouring mountain, and having found a certain 
stone of magic virtue carried it back in her beak to the nest. 
"With this stone she rubbed the eggs all over, till the life came 
back into them ; and in due time the young ravens were flying 
about as strong and joyous as the rest. 

Macnamara having observed this process, watched his oppor- 
tunity, and one day when the raven was absent, he stole the 
magic stone from the nest. His first trial of the power was to 
rub himself all over, as he had seen the raven do with the eggs ; 
and with a very remarkable result, for he at once became 
possessed of marvellous gifts. He could foresee events, and force 
people to do his will : he knew when danger was near, and what 
path to take to avoid his enemies when they were on his track. 
Then he rubbed Feenish, the mare, all over, and instantly she be- 
came as wise as a Christian, and knew every word that was said 
to her. 

So Macnamara, armed with all these new powers, went on with 
his wild wicked life, and robbed and plundered^ worse than ever ; 
and the blood of many a man, besides, was on his hands. 

At last the Joyce faction resolved to make an end of the 
audacious robber, and all the Big Joyces of Oonnemara gathered 
in force and pursued him from place to place and over bog and 
mountain through half the country. At one time Macnamara 
plunged into a bog ; where Feenish lost her four shoes ; then he 
made her swim the river at Cong after a hard day's ride through 
mountain passes ; but when the poor mare got to the other side 
she fell down dead, to the great grief of the robber chief, who had 
her buried on an island in Lough Corrib that still bears her 
name — Innis-Feenish. However, when he had laid his faithful 
friend in the clay, all energy forsook him, and all his good luck 
departed — his riches melted away, his children squandered his 
property, and his two sons met a violent death ; finally, broken in 
spirit, beggared, and alone in the world, the last of his race, he 
found himself with nothing left of his ill-gotten gains except an 
old grey pony. On this animal he rode to Cork, where he took his 
passage in an emigrant ship to 4-fflfiriej, and sailed away from the 
old country, laden with the curses of all who had ever known 
him ; and from that hour he was heard of no more. So ended the 
wicked career of the spendthrift and gambler and the suspected 
murderer of many victims. 




The magi, the Sephoe, the gy mnosophists, and the Irish adepts, 
held much the same creed and the same dogmas with regard to 
the conduct of life necessary to heighten the spiritual power. 
They all abstained from animal food at such times as the rush of 
inspiration was on them and the madness of prophetic rage ; and 
at all times they favoured solitude, living apart in the House of 
Learning or Bardic College, where they admitted no obtrusive in- 
timacies with lower intellects to disturb their lofty and exalted 
moods of thought. The means, also, by which they obtained 
mastery over diseases and the minds of men, with the strange and 
subtle use they made of herbs, were all kept secret amongst them- 
selves ; for they held that the prying eyes of shallow unbelievers 
should never be suffered to intrude upon the sacred mysteries. 
And it is certain that the bards possessed strange and mystic 
powers of wisdom beyond and above all other men. It was there- 
fore very dangerous to offend a poet. If any one refused him a 
request he would take the lobe of the person's ear and grind it be- 
tween his fingers, and the man would die. Yet the bards were 
capable of much human emotion, and were the sweet singers of 
sympathy when sorrow touched a household. 

The following elegy from the Irish, written about two hundred 
years ago by the Ard-File, or chief poet of the tribe, has many 
natural, pathetic touches, and when chanted in Irish to the harp 
had power to melt the hearts of all the hearers to tears. 


Boyne, once famed for battles, sports, and conflicts* 
And great heroes of the race of Conn, 
Art thou grey after all thy blooms ? 
O aged old woman of grey-green pools, 
wretched Boyne of many tears. 


Where is the glory of thy sires ? 
The glory of Art with the swift arrow ; 
Of Meiltan, with the swift-darting spears ; 
Of the lordly race of the O'Neil? 
To thee belonged red victory, 
When the Fenian wrath was kindled, 
And the heroes in thousands rode to war, 
And the bridles clanked on the steeds. 

river of kings and the sons of kings, 
Of the swift bark and the silver fish, 

1 lay my blessing on thee with my tears, 
For thou art the watcher by a grave — 
My treasures lie in the earth at thy side— « 
O Boyne of many tears. 

My sons lie there in their strength, 
My little daughter in her beauty — 
Bory, and Brian, and Kose — 
These have I given against my will, 
My blood, my heart, my bone and kin f 
My love and my life, to the grave. 

The blessing of men was on them, 

The blessings of thousands that loved them, 

From Kells of the Crosses to Drogheda — 

Eight thousand blessings to Dowth of the Trees. 

Peace be on the earth where they lie ! 

By the roj r al stream of the kings, 

In the land of the great O'Neil. 

The Bardic song amongst all nations was the first expression of 
the human soul, with all its strong, passionate emotions and heroic 
impulses. It is remarkable that, although several invasions of 
Ireland are on record, yet but one language seems to have existed 
there from the earliest times down to the coming of the Anglo- 
Normans in the twelfth century, The Bards held it as their pecu- 
liar duty to raise this language to the highest perfection, and the 
laws of Celtic poetry, especially, were most elaborate and the 
structure of the verse exceedingly difficult. Ten years of study 
were allowed the students at the Druids' College to gain per- 
fection in the art, and also to practise the memory ; for at the 
royal festivals the Ard-File* was expected to recite fully and per- 
fectly whatever heroic tale might be called for by the king at the 
banquet. On great occasions also, when the meeting was held in 
the open air, the chiefs sat round in a circle on mounds of turf, 
to the accompaniment of the harp, the chorus joining in the 
whilejthe bards, standing in the centre, recited the heroic narrative 
lyrical portions at intervals, and a circle of harpists at the . outer- 
most ring of the assemblage introduced occasional symphonies of 



pure instrumental music to give the bards time for rest between 
the parts of the recitation. 

There were three chief measures in music in use amongst the 
poets — " the Sorrowful/' or the chant for the dead ; " the Delight- 
ful," reserved for dances and festivities ; and " the Reposing/' 
devoted entirely to love sonnets and the plaintive softness of 
lyrical expression. But the Ross-Catha, or battle-hymn, was 
the great war-song to which the warriors marched to battle, and 
which inspired them with the heroic madness that braved death 
for victory. 

Everything connected with the bards is interesting. They 
were so gifted, so learned, and so beautiful. For even genius 
was not considered enough, without beauty, to warrant a young 
man being enrolled in the ranks of the poets. A noble, stately 
presence was indispensable, and the poet was required not only to 
be gifted, but to be handsome. Then he was promoted through 
all the grades until he reached the last and highest, called " The 
Wisdom of the Gods," but the knowledge then acquired by the 
initiated was kept sacred from the crowd, and the adept swore by 
the sun, the stars, and the hosts of heaven never to reveal the 
mysteries acquired by his initiation, to the profane. 

The high-born maidens amongst the noble families were also 
trained by the Druids in poetry and music, and in the exercise of 
the chase, such as archery and throwing the lance, to give their 
bodies health, vigour and beauty, while those endowed with 
peculiar intellect were admitted into the bardic orders, and 
became the priestess, prophetess, or poetess of the tribe ; who 
inspired men by her eloquence and had power by her incantations 
over the deep mysteries of life. Such was Eodain, the chief 
poetess of Erin, the guide and inspirer of Eugene, the king of the 
South, the prophetess of her nation, who saved him and his king- 
dom from ruin by her wisdom, and redeemed him by her counsels 
from his dissolute and evil life. 


But thousands of years ago, long before kings, bards, and Druids, 
with all their learning and comparative civilization, flourished in 
Ireland, and before the traditions of a beautiful fairy race were 
brought from the far East by a people accustomed to the sight of 
beauty, grace and splendour, an ancient race existed in the world 
—a mysterious, primitive wave of human life that spread over all 
Europe, perhaps over all the earth, and even surged upon the 
shores of our own Western island ; possibly a pre-Adamic race, 


inferior in all points, phj-sieal as well as mental, to the Adamic 
race that succeeded them. 

They have left no name or history, yet evidences of their 
nature, habits, intellect, and modes of life can be scientifically 
deduced from the abundant strange and curious antiquarian 
remains to be seen in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy, 
of which Sir William Wilde in his illustrated catalogue has 
given such a perfect and comprehensive description. Records of 
a period so remote that the use of metals even was unknown ; yet 
these ancient records reveal the story of the rude half-developed, 
early humanity of the world in as clear a symbol to the expert and 
the archseologist, as if written in alphabetical letters on monoliths, 
like those of Babylon. 

Without, therefore, being forced into shadowy theory or nebular 
hypothesis, we may readily construct the whole life of the primi- 
tive man, his mode of being and doing, of dressing and of eating, 
of living, dying and sepulture, simply from the rude implements 
fashioned by his hand that cover the walls of the Academy, and 
are the letters in k which an eternal page of human history is 

But, this first pre- Adamic rudimental humanity was not wholly 
extirpated by the subsequent Adamic race. Representatives of 
them still remained throughout the world, and are yet existing, 
though these half-souled specimens of an early, inferior humanity, 
are gradually dying out and disappearing before the advance of 
the higher Adamic race, the destined lords and rulers of earth. 

In Ireland the inferior primitive tribes became the bond-slaves 
for the higher humanity — the Tuatha-de-Dananns and Milesians 
that succeeded them ; and specimens of this slave people can still 
be seen in remote districts in Ireland along the coast-line of the 
West, and in the secluded mountain passes. They are held in 
much contempt by the descendants of the nobler race, and are 
stigmatized even now as " the slave people," and the bondsmen of 
their forefathers. 

It seems, then, an incontrovertible truth that the early inhabi- 
tants of Ireland, as of all Europe — in fact, the whole pre-Adamite 
humanity of the world — lived and died throughout how many 
ages we know not in a state little higher than the animal 
creation, without the knowledge of even the simplest elements 
of civilization, which all the Adamic races possess, from their 
higher organization and intellect, and which they seem to have 
had from the date of their earliest appearance on earth. 

The clothing of the primitive man was of the skins of animals 
fastened with thongs, or tunics made of rushes, such as were 
found some years ago in Spain, on the skeleton forms of pre- 
historic date buried in a cave of the Sierra Nevada. Their only 
weapons and tools were of atone, manufactured by another stone. 


Their ornaments were of shells and fish-bones ; and their dwell- 
ings such only as instinct has suggested to all animals. 

There are abundant evidences in our National Museum to prove 
the existence of this primary stratum of barbarism underlying all 
the culture of modern Europe ; and we might almost hesitate to 
link so low a type of humanity with our own if we did not re- 
cognize in it also the characteristic instinct of man, entirely 
wanting in the animals — an irrepressible tendency towards pro- 
gression and improvement, and, above all, to ornamentation, 
which is a distinctive human quality. 


We commence the study of this early race with the first rude 
stone implement with which a savage man killed an animal 
scarcely more savage. Then, simple designs of ornamentation 
are discernible — the first twilight dawning of soul through 
matter. The rude stone implement becomes decorated, more 
symmetrical in form, more adapted to its uses. There is evi- 
dence of a growing sense of beauty, and heightened reasoning 
powers. After the introduction of metals, we trace the original 
stone forms reproduced first in simple unalloyed copper, after- 
wards in that perfect and beautiful bronze of a ruddy yellow, 
like gold, which no modern bronze has ever equalled. There is 
no violent disruption of ideas, as if the new incoming race had 
entirely vanquished and crushed the earlier and elder ; but on the 
contrary, a gradual and continuous development of the original 
ideas of this elder race itself, always co-working with whatever 
new influences may have come to it from without. 

Many writers have held the belief that the first colonists of 
Ireland were a highly-civilized people, clothed with Tyrian silk, 
fine linen of Egypt, and adorned with costly ornaments of gold. 
But stern facts refute this theory. The same primitive race who 
used only stone weapons were unacquainted with the art of 
weaving, and knew of no other garment than the untanned skin 
of the animal they killed for food. Theorists might still, however, 
argue, doubt, and disbelieve, if one of the ancient race had not him- 
self risen, as it were, from the grave, after a sleep of thousands of 
years, to give his testimony concerning his people. In 1821 this 
primitive Irishman, clad completely in skins laced with thongs, 
was found in a peat bog, ten feet below the surface. The teeth, 
long dark hair and beard, were perfect. Portions of this dress 
have been preserved in the Museum of the Royal Irish Academy. 
The material used in sewing was Me gut, and the regularity and 


closeness of the stitching are most remarkable. Specimens of the 
antique skin mocassins and skin caps have been also found at 
various times in the peat bogs, and secured for the Museum, so 
that we have the dress of the ancient Irishman complete. 

Long after this period of barbarism, but still at a time so 
distant that it is anterior to all historic record, we find that the 
Irish had attained some knowledge of metals and the art of 
weaving. The Museum contains numerous highly-finished illus- 
trations of the beautifully-formed, slender, leaf-shaped swords 
and daggers of bronze, which began gradually to supersede the 
use of the primitive celt. Many of these swords are of the pure 
Grecian type, formed apparently on the model of the leaf of the 
aloe or the agave. One sword found on an ancient battle-field is 
curved like a Turkish yataghan ; and in " The Book of Rights " 
" curved swords of battle " are frequently referred to. But the 
specimens of the broad scythe-shaped sword, " which is especially 
and peculiarly Irish," are the most numerous, as many as forty- 
one of these heavy, thick, round-pointed battle-axe swords being 
in the Museum. 

The same progress of artistic development is observable in the 
ancient swords as was noticed in the primitive celt — as the art 
advanced, the manufacturer began to exercise his artistic faculties 
in fanciful and costly decoration. The blade was adorned with 
either cast or engraved ornamentation, and the hilt inlaid or 
studded with gold. Thus, Brian Boroimhe is described as carry- 
ing a gold-hilted sword in his right hand at the battle of Olontarf . 

It is very remarkable that, throughout the whole series, from 
the rudest to the most highly finished, a peculiar idea is traceable 
in the ornamentation, by which they can at once be recognized as 
Irish ; and this idea seems to have travelled from Irish Paganism 
to Irish Ohristianism. The ornamentation on the sepulchral 
stones of New Grange is repeated on the stone celts ; it is carried 
on into the age of Bronze ; it decorated the swords and spears of 
the kings, as well as their costly diadems and ornaments of gold, 
and still continued to be traced, with a kind of loving fidelity to 
the ancient symbols, upon the manuscripts illuminated by priestly 
hands, so late as the tenth and eleventh centuries. 

For the illustration of the costume of the early Irish, after it 
passed from primitive helpless barbarism to comparative civiliza- 
tion, by the aid of the knowledge of metals and the art of 
weaving, fortunately we are not left to mere theories ; for, by a 
singular chance, the representative of the advanced period, like 
him of the barbaric age, arises also from the grave of the Past to 
bear witness for himself. 

In 1824, a male body, completely clad in woollen antique 
garments, was found in a bog near Sligo, six feet below the 
surface j and so perfect was the body when first discovered, that 


a magistrate was called upon to hold an inquest on it. The 
garments also were in such complete preservation, that a photo- 
graph was made of a person clad in this antique suit, with the 
exception of the shoes, which were too small for an adult of our 
day, and a drawing from this photograph is one of the best and 
most beautifully executed illustrations of the Museum catalogue. 
The costume of this ancient Irish gentleman is exceedingly 
picturesque, consisting of trews of a plaid pattern, made wide 
above, like Turkish trousers, but fitting close to the leg and ankle ; 
over them was a tunic of soft cloth, most elaborately gored and 
gussetted, showing high perfection in the tailoring art. The skirt 
of the tunic, which extends to the knee, is set on full, and 
measures eight feet in circumference at the bottom. The sleeves 
are tight, and open to the elbow, like an Albanian jacket ; and 
over all was thrown the immemorial Irish mantle, so invariably 
worn, so indispensable a portion of Irish costume that it passed 
into a proverb among our neighbours, the Welsh, "like an Irish- 
man for the cloak." 

This graceful garment, as found upon the hero of the bog, and 
now visible in our Museum, is composed of brown, soft cloth, 
made straight on the upper edge, which is nine feet long, but cut 
nearly into the segment of a circle on the lower. The form 
resembles closely that worn by the Calabrian peasant at this day. 
These cloaks were often of great value ; kings were paid tribute of 
them. They were made of various colours, each colour being a 
symbol to denote the rank of the wearer. The number of colours 
also in a dress had a significant value, and was regulated by law. 
Thus, one colour only was allowed to slaves ; two for soldiers ; 
three for goodly heroes, or young lords ; six for the learned men ; 
five for a poetess ; and seven was the regal number for kings and 

In the "Book of Rights," the earliest accessible authority on tho 
subject of costume prior to the Norman Invasion, we read of cloaks 
of various colours presented in tribute to the kings — cloaks of 
purple, red cloaks, green, white, black; in fact, cloaks of all colours. 
Some are mentioned as bordered with gold. The tunic is also 
described frequently, " with golden borders — with gold ornaments 
— with golden hems." Another form of cloak was fashioned with 
a hood like the Arab bornous, and was bordered with a deep 
fringe of goat's hairs. 

Irish costume seems, in fact, to have been half-Oriental, half- 
Northern, like the compound race that peopled the island. The 
trews were the same as the Germanic braccos ; while the tunic was 
Albanian, and the mantle Eastern ; as well as the high, conical 
head-dress, which is identical in form with the Persian cap of the 
present day. On this subject Sir "William Wilde remarks — 

"Every fay's observation and research bring to light new 


affinities with early Irish costume. In the great French work, 
' Herculaneum et Pompeii/ there is a battle scene, copied from a 
mosaic at Pompeii, in which the arms and dress of the combatants 
are almost identical with those of ancient Ireland, The 
vanquished wear tight-fitting trousers, close tunics, several of 
which are plaided, and cloaks with the hood coming over the head 
precisely like the Irish cochall. The chief figures wear torques 
round the neck, and bracelets on the wrists, and the hood is re- 
tained in its place by a narrow frontlet, apparently of gold. The 
colours of the garments are also peculiarly Irish. In some, the 
cloak is yellow; the mantle, dark red; and the tunic, purple 
bordered with white ; the latter spangled with triple stars of gold, 
precisely after the fashion figured in the ' Book of Kells.' The 
chariot in which the principal figure stands resembles some figured 
on our ancient crosses, and the charioteer wears a pointed cap, 
green tunic, and tartan vest. All the vanquished wear beards, and 
their hoods envelop their chins." 

The study of ancient costume has especial interest for the 
historian, as the culture, civilization, and commercial relations of 
a people can be readily deduced from it ; and in the numerous and 
curious illustrations of the catalogue, taken from ancient records, 
illuminated manuscripts, and the ancient crosses and sepulchral 
monuments of the country, everything has been brought together 
that could throw light on this obscure subject. One most 
remarkable illustration is a full-length portrait of Dermot 
M'Morrough, king of Leinster, taken from an illuminated conjr of 
Giraldus Cambrensis in the possession of Sir Thomas Philips, 
which portrait was very probably drawn from the life. 
^ From all that is known on the subject, it would appear that 
linen and cloth of every degree of fineness, according to the rank 
of the wearer, were the principal materials used in ancient Irish 
dress. No remains of silk garments have been discovered ; nor do 
the historical records, as far as we are aware, make any mention 
of silk being employed in personal wear. It is remarkable also, 
that while a traditional belief exists that linen has been known 
from time immemorial to Ireland, yet the Academy does not possess 
a single specimen of ancient linen. The linen shirts worn at the 
time of the Norman Invasion are said to have been of immense 
size, and dyed a saffron colour. But there is undeniable proof, 
that the tartan, or cloth of divers colours, which we are accustomed 
to associate only with Scotland, was worn universally in Ireland 
in ancient times. Portions of tartans are preserved in the 
Museum, and probably each grade of rank and clan possessed a 
characteristic plaid as well as a special dress. A love of variegated 
and glowing colours, and a tendency to gorgeous decoration, seem 
to have been always instinctive to the Irish nature. 

The female <Jregs £ Ireland at a period subsequent fp the 


barbaric age is also illustrated not from conjecture, but from actual 
observation ; for in 1843 a complete female antique dress was dis- 
covered many feet below the surface in a bog (these museums of 
Nature, where she stores up and preserves her specimens of antique 
life with a care and perfection that no mortal curator can ever 
hope to equal), and is now to be seen in the Academy's museum. 

It consists of a boddice with a long waist, open in front, and 
attached to a full plaited skirt ; which, like the Albanian f ustanell, 
consists of several narrow gored breadths, gathered into small 
plaits at top, and spreading into a broad quilling at the bottom ; 
each plait being stitched on the inside to preserve the form. 

The bottom of the skirt measures twenty-two and a half feet in 
circumference, and there are ninety-two plaits, most elaborately 
arranged, so that the joining of each of the narrow breadths should 
fall within a plait. The material is of a brown woollen cloth, 

No pictorial representations exists of female costume earlier 
than the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries but from the sculptured 
effigies on tombs, we find it consisted of either a flowing robe and 
veil, or of the plaited skirt and tight boddice already described, 
while the head-dress varied according to the fashion of the day. 

The subject of personal decoration is perfectly illustrated in the 
Museum ; the Academy possessing one of the largest collections in 
Europe, beginning at the first rude effort at adornment of the 
barbaric age, up to the rich golden ornaments of a later, though 
still pre-historic period. 

It is not pleasant to national pride, after feeding on the gorgeous 
fables of our earliest annalists, to contemplate the primitive Irish- 
man fastening his mantle of untanned deerskin with a fish-bone 
or a thorn, as we know the Germans did in the time of Tacitus ; 
yet, unhappily, antiquarian research will not allow us to doubt the 
fact of the simple savageness of the first colonists. But when the 
intellect of the rude man stirred within him, he began to carve the 
bones of the animals he killed into articles of ornament and use. 
Thus the slender bones of fowls were fashioned into cloak pins, 
especially the leg bone, where the natural enlargement at one end 
suggested the form, and afforded surface for artistic display. 
From this first rude essay of the child-man can be traced the con- 
tinuous development of his ideas in decorative art, from the carving 
of bones to the casting of metal, up to the most elaborate working 
in enamel, gold, and precious stones. Our Museum is rich in these 
objects, containing more than five hundred specimens. Pins, 
fibulae,* and brooches having been discovered in Ireland in immense 

* This word " fibulae " is a heathenish and imported term, quite foreign 
to the Irish tongue. There is no other word known in the Irish language 
to designate a brooch, be it of bone or be it of gold, than Dealg y which 
signifies a thorn. 


quantities and variety, some of which are unsurpassed for beauty 
of design and workmanship. 

"In these articles/' Sir "William remarks, "the process of 
development is displayed in a most remarkable manner ; for, from 
the simple unadorned pin or spike of copper, bronze or brass (the 
metallic representation of the thorn), to the most elaborately 
wrought ring-brooch of precious metal, the patterns of which are 
now used by our modern jewellers — every stage of art, both in 
form and handicraft, is clearly defined, not one single link is want- 
ing. In the first stage all the artist's powers were lavished on the 
decoration of the pin itself, or in the development of the head, 
which was enlarged and decorated into every possible shape and 
conceivable pattern. "When it was almost impossible to improve 
the head, a ring or loop was added, passed through a hole in the 
neck. In the next stage, the ring was doubled, or many rings 
added. Finally, the ring was enlarged, flattened out, decorated, 
enamelled, covered with filigree, and jewelled, until, in those 
magnificent specimens of silver and gold found in Ireland of late 
years, it reached a degree of perfection which modern art can with 
difficulty imitate." 

The forms of many of the Irish brooches, pins, and fibulae, are 
identical with numbers found in Scandinavia, but the peculiar 
ornamentation — a curiously involved spiral or serpent coil, which 
can be traced back through all ages of Irish art to the most 
remote antiquity — is met nowhere else ; neither in Etruscan nor 
Teutonic art, though some assert its origin can be traced to 
Assyria and Egypt, However, this Opus Hibevnicum, as it was 
termed by the learned Kemble, is one of the tests by which an 
antiquary can distinguish national from imported work. It is 
also remarkable that the ornaments of like form found so 
copiously in Scandinavia are all of bronze, while the Irish are of 
gold, a metal which, there is every reason to believe, existed in 
Ireland abundantly in former times, and is still found in small 
quantities. That it was used for ornament, even coeval with the 
stone celt, is also probable, as the rudest savage can make the 
ductile metal assume any form by simply flattening it between 
two stones. 

Many centuries before the Christian era, according to the 
annals, gold was smelted in Wicklow, to the east of the Liffey. 
Goblets and brooches were covered with it, and the artificer's 
name was Ucadan ; but no further mention of native gold occurs 
throughout our ancient histories. However, two thousand years 
after, the story of the old annalist was singularly confirmed ; for, 
in the year 1796, in the same part of Wicklow, perhaps on the 
very site of the furnace of Ucadan, upwards of £10,000 worth of 
native gold was obtained in about two months, and small 
quantities have been gathered there from time to time ever sincet 


The subject of the gold antiquities is one full of interest, and 
even of mystery. The quantity of antique manufactured gold 
ornaments dug up in Ireland, even in recent times, has been 
estimated as exceeding half a million of money. As much 
more may be lying beneath our feet, for, every year, as new 
cuttings are made for railroads, or bogs are drained, deposits of 
gold ornaments come to light. Two or three years ago a deposit 
of massive gold bracelets, in value nearly £5,000, as bright and 
beautiful as if just finished, was dug up in Oarlow ; and, still 
more recently, several antique golden frontlets were found by a 
labourer while working in a field, who, utterly unconscious of 
their value, threw them to his children, and the author of the 
Catalogue actually discovered, one day, the son of the man cutting 
them up into nose-rings for his pigs. They were happily rescued, 
and are now in the Academy. The form is beautiful and classic ; 
it is a half-moon diadem, resembling accurately some seen in 
Etruscan sculpture. 

What inestimable treasures may have been thus lost! not 
merely from ignorance, but also from cupidity ; for numbers of 
gold articles have disappeared in the smelting-pot of the jewellers, 
who bought them from the country people at perhaps a fractional 
part of their value. The very small annual sum allowed to the 
Academy by Government is another cause why the work of 
destruction still goes on. Valuable gold ornaments are frequently 
offered there for sale — too valuable, unhappily, for the Academy 
to purchase, and with an indignant regret that is almost like 
a sense' of shame, the members are obliged to leave them to their 
fate. Of course legislation could remedy all this, as it has done 
in Denmark, where the State has secured the possession of all 
antiquities found in the country for the National Museum, 
without any wrong being done to the finder, who is paid the 
full value of all he brings. But in Denmark there is a strong 
national pride in the subject, and the peasant, who is early 
taught by the local authorities the value of such things, would 
as soon think of destroying an antiquity as of burning his 

It is still a question among the learned whether this enormous 
amount of manufactured gold, far exceeding all yet discovered in 
England and Scandinavia, was altogether native, or to some 
extent imported. An analysis of some of the gold has been made, 
to test the identity of its constituents with the gold of Wicklow, 
and in the instance selected the gold was found similar. This fact 
and the ornamentation are proofs to uphold the native theory : 
while opponents state that they came in the way of commerce 
from the Carthaginians who traded here. Ornaments identical 
with the Irish in form — the twisted torques, the bracelets, the 
diadems, and frontlets^ having been found in the interior qf 


Africa, and along the Gold Coast ; in India, Barbary, Spain, and 
the islands of the Mediterranean. 

Several ancient Irish musical instruments, the chief of which 
were the harp and trumpet, and numerous fragments of harps 
have been found also in the oldest crannoges, proving how ancient 
was the knowledge and the practice of music in Ireland — a fact 
confirmed by the Welsh Annals, which state that the Irish 
surpassed all nations in their proficiency on the harp. 

The Museum possesses sixteen antique bronze trumpets, one of 
which — the finest specimen yet found in Europe — measures about 
eight feet in length, and the joining is curiously riveted with 
metal studs, a fact proving its antiquity, as it must have been 
formed in an age unacquainted with the art of soldering. With 
regard to coins, Sir William Wilde utterly denies that bronze 
ring-money was ever used in Ireland, as stated by Sir William 
Betham, who borrowed his idea from Valiancy: for all the 
articles hitherto described as ring-money, are now proved un- 
deniably to belong to chain-dress or armour. The ancient medium 
of barter seems to have been so many head of cattle, or so many 
ounces of gold. A native coinage was utterly unknown. The 
amount of bronze discovered in Ireland is enormous, and proves 
the long duration of a period when it was in general use, before 
iron was known. Specimens of every object necessary to a 
people's life have been found fabricated of it — weapons, tools, 
armour, swords, and spears ; culinary vessels, caldrons, spoons, 
and other minor requisites ; hair-pins for the flowing locks of the 
women ; brooches for the graceful mantles of the chiefs, but not 
of the dark, dingy, modern compound that bears the name. 
Irish antique bronze was a metal of bright, glowing, golden 
beauty, and the effect of an army marching with spears of this 
metal in the flashing sunlight, we can imagine to have been truly 

The people of this remote age must have attained considerable 
skill in the manufacturing arts — must have had laws, religion, 
and social culture — yet how little would have been known of them 
if these mute witnesses of a past humanity had not been inter- 
preted by science. Archaeology jand philology are the only 
solvents of the past ; and no theory can henceforth be tolerated 
that will not stand the test of being assayed by them. The 
philologist traces the origin and affinities of our people in the 
roots of the Irish language ; while their habits, modes of life, 
their position in the scale of civilization throughout the long 
duration of the unwritten age, can only be read in the letters of 
stone, bronze, and gold upon the walls of our Academy, 

Irish manuscripts, though the oldest in North-western Europe, 
date back scarcely further than the fifth or sixth century. Beyond 
that period we enter a region of darkness, through which no 


literature or letters radiate their light ; yet, unassisted by either, 
the archaeologist can reconstruct the primitive world and the 
primitive man with greater truth and certainty than if he 
possessed both ; for the facts of a museum are changeless and 
enduring, and can suffer no mutation from prejudice or ignorance, 
yet we must remember that it is science alone that gives value to 
these facts. "Without its aid a museum would be only an 
aggregate of curious lumber. The archaeologist must combine, in 
a synthetic and comprehensive view — must arrange in their proper 
sequence — must elucidate by a world-wide learning, these sibyline 
fragments of the past ; or this writing on the wall, though it 
express the most irrefragable truths of history, will remain an 
undeciphered hieroglyphic, as useless and unprofitable to the 
student as the alphabet of an unknown language, which he is 
unable to form into intelligible words. All this Sir "William 
Wilde accomplished for the Museum of the Academy, and in his 
clear and well-arranged volumes we can read the stone pages of 
our history by the light of all the learning and antiquarian 
research of the past and present age gathered to one focus. 

The conclusion to be drawn from the facts laid before us is, 
that in an age of remote antiquity (M. Boucher de Perthes, the 
well-known French author and antiquarian, has written a book to 
prove that it was prior to the Deluge) the entire face of the earth 
was covered by a nomad people, speaking the one language, and 
living after the same rude fashion, with no other weapons than 
sharpened stone. This race passed away, and no research has ever 
yet discovered their name, their language, their religion, or the 
era of their existence. Not an inscription, not a word, not a 
letter graven on any stone have they left to allay the torturing 
curiosity of the inquirer. Yet traces of them have been found 
from Mexico to Japan; from the steppes of Tartary to the 
Pampas ; round the shores of every European sea, and along the 
coasts of the two oceans. Wherever man's foot has trodden within 
historic times, they trod before all history. Even in this outlying 
isle of ours vestiges of this people are strewn so thickly that the 
very soil seems made of their remains. Then another race swept 
across Europe — a comparatively cultured race, bearing with them 
the chief element of civilization — a knowledge of metals. They 
spread over both sides of the Danube ; left their footprints in 
Italy and on the shores of the Baltic; overran Switzerland, 
France, and Belgium, giving names to the rivers they passed, the 
mountains they crossed, and the towns they founded, which 
names cling to them even to this day. From Belgium they spread 
to Britain, and from thence, or by the seacoast of Spain, they 
reached Ireland, where they founded the existing Irish race, and 
brought with them the knowledge of metals, the art of music and 
poetry, and the stiU existing Irish language, Historians name 


these people the Celts. On the Continent they were gradually 
crushed down beneath the Roman and Gothic races, and in Britain 
also by successive conquests. But Ireland suffered no conquest. 
Here the old Celtic race lived and flourished, and here alone their 
language^ which everywhere else melted into a compound with 
the Gothic and Latin, maintained its distinct existence. The 
English language is the gradually formed product and result of 
the successive conquests of England. But no invading people 
ever gained suflicent strength in Ireland to influence the original 
language. It exists still amongst us, living and spoken the same 
as when thousands of years ago the Celtic people first crossed the 
Danube and gave it the name it now bears. For this reason all 
the archaeologists of Europe turn their eyes to our sacred isle, as 
to the one great museum of the Celtic race. Thus, Professor 
Keller, of Zurich, anxiously studies the formation of Irish cran- 
noges, to compare them with the Swiss j and the learned Pictet, 
of Geneva, demands the long-deferred completion of the Irish 
Dictionary, with an ardour that puts to shame our own apathy, 
as without it comparative philology wants its chief corner-stone. 
The great facts of our Museum, illustrated, described, and laid 
before the learned of Europe in a comprehensive form, will go far 
to correct the crude, imperfect notions of Continental writers 
concerning Irish antiquities. For instance, Professor Linden- 
schmidt, of Mayence, asserted in one of his earlier published 
works, that all the ancient bronze articles found on this side of 
the Alps were imported from Etruria, as a people so barbarous as 
the Irish could never have produced them. The fact being, that 
the largest, most varied, most highly decorated collection of 
bronze celts existing is to be found in our Museum, along with 
numerous specimens of the moulds in which they were cast, 
discovered on the very spot where the ancient workman had lit 
his furnace. This universal interest and demand for information 
are enough to stimulate our learned men to exertion, seeing that 
they are, in a measure, answerable to Europe for the proper 
preservation of our antiquities, the very rudest of which can tell 
some tale of the past, as the mere furrows along the streets of the 
dead Pompeii show that life once passed there. 


Eably Irish art illustrates in a very remarkable manner those 
distinctive qualities of Irish nature, which we know from the 
legendary traditions have characterized our people from the 
earliest times, The earnest religious faith, the love of gorgeous 


colouring^ the tendency to express ideas by symbol, and the vivid 
imagination that delights in the strange and unusual, often 
fantastic and grotesque, in place of the absolute and real, combined 
with the patient and minute elaboration of details, so truly 
Oriental in its spirit, specially mark Irish ornamentation. All 
these reverential, artistic, fanciful, and subtle evidences of the 
peculiar Celtic spirit find a full and significant expression in the 
wonderful splendours of early Irish art, as seen chiefly in the 
ancient illuminated manuscripts. 

The reputation of Irish artists for excellence in these costly 
productions became so extended throughout Christian Europe in 
the early ages, that at the request of many nations Ireland sent 
forth numbers of her most cultured artists as teachers and scribes 
to the great foreign schools and colleges ; and numerous examples 
of skilled Irish work are still existing in Continental Libraries, 
where they are held as amongst the most sacred of the national 
treasures. For a full and comprehensive illustration of this sub- 
ject it would be impossible to over-estimate the artistic and historic 
value of Mr. Westwood's magnificent book on Anglo-Saxon and 
Irish Manuscripts. The volume contains facsimiles from all the 
principal illuminated Celtic manuscripts of Europe, executed with 
the most scrupulous care, chiefly by Mr. Westwood himself, the 
majority of them with the aid of a magnifying glass, so minute 
and delicate are the lines of ornamentation to be represented. In 
fact, for accuracy of information and richness of illustration, the 
volume surpasses anything yet published on Celtic art in the 
United Kingdom, and may claim equality with the grand, but 
enormously expensive work of Count Bastard, on early French 
Manuscripts. Mr. Westwood, in a learned preliminary dissertation, 
gives his views on the origin and development of JELiberno-Saxon 
art during the first thousand years of the Christian era, and find3 
in the ornamentation, as observed by Kemble and others, a distinct 
Opus Hibemicum and an Opus Anglicum, but the Irish the more 
perfect of the two, and wholly different from Continental art of 
the same era. 

The earliest manuscripts of Greece and Rome show nothing like 
this distinctive Celtic art ; nor the Italian mosaics, nor the wall 
paintings of Herculaneum or Pompeii — beautiful as are the repre- 
sentations of the human figure found there ; nor does Byzantine 
art afford any similar types. From whence, then, did the Irish, 
the acknowledged founders of Celtic art in Europe, derive their 
ideas of ornamentation ? This is one of the historical mysteries 
which, like the origin of the Round Towers, still awaits solution. 
One must travel a long way, even to the far East, before finding in 
the decorations of the ancient Hindoo temples anything ap- 
proaching to the typical idea that runs through all Irish orna- 
mentation, Itis, however, an incontrovertible fact, and one proved 


to demonstration by Mr. Westwood's learning, labour, and re- 
searches, that a time when the pictorial art was almost extinct in 
Italy and Greece, and indeed scarcely existed in other parts of 
Europe — namely, from the fifth to the end of the eighth century 
— a style of art had been originated, cultivated, and brought into 
a most marvellous state of perfection in Ireland absolutely distinct 
from that of any other part of the civilized world ; and which 
being carried abroad by Irish and Saxon missionaries was adopted 
and imitated in the schools of Charlemagne, and in all the other 
great schools and monasteries founded by them upon the 

In the middle of the ninth century the influence of the artists 
of Germany reacted on the productions of England, and in con- 
sequence of the more frequent communications of learned men 
with Rome, classical models began to be adopted, floral decora- 
tions were introduced, and figures in the Byzantine style. With 
these the Irish ornamentation was combined, principally in the 
framework of the design. Then it gradually disappeared from 
England, where it was replaced by Franco-Saxon and Teutonic 
art ; so that after the tenth century Mr. Westwood has not found 
any Anglo-Saxon manuscript executed in the Lindisf arne or Irish 
style. But it remained for several centuries longer in use in 
Ireland, though the ornamental details exhibit little of the ex- 
treme delicacy of the earlier productions. With reference to these, 
Mr. Digby Wyatt observes that, in delicacy of handling and 
minute but faultless execution, the whole range of palaeography 
offers nothing comparable to the early Irish manuscripts, espe- 
cially " The Book of Kells," the most marvellous of them all. One 
cannot wonder, therefore, that Giraldus Cambrensis, when over in 
Ireland in the reign of Henry II., on being shown an illuminated 
Irish manuscript, exclaimed, "This is more like the work of 
angels than of men I " 

The peculiarities which characterize true Celtic art, whether in 
stone, metal work, or manuscript illumination, consist in the ex- 
cessive and minute elaborations of intricate ornamental details, 
such as the spirals, the interlaced ribands, and the entwined 
serpents and other animal forms, so familiar to the students of our 
national art treasures in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy. 
These forms are invariably found in all Irish decoration. The 
initial letters and ornamentations of the ancient manuscripts are 
reproduced in the gigantic stone crosses and the more delicate 
metal work of the shrines and -reliquaries; and from this identity 
of ornamentation the age can be determined of all art monuments 
or remains, and objects readily classified as cotemporaneous. The 
Irish adhered with wonderful fidelity to their peculiar art ideas for 
at least eight hundred years ; and while the Saxons coquetted 
with Frankish art, ano! finally gave themselves up wholly to 



Norman influence, the Irish continued their exclusive de^ otion to 
the ancient and national Celtic type. Intensely national, indeed, 
were those early artists; they gave ideas to the world, but 
received none in exchange. In their pictures Goliath appears as 
an Irish warrior, and David bears an Irish harp in his hands ; 
while our Lord Himself, in one of the Irish sculptures, is repre- 
sented wearing the Irish dress. When the nation fell undei 
Norman sway in the twelfth century, Norman ideas naturally 
became triumphant ; but everything that is most beautiful and 
interesting in antique Irish art belongs to the pre-Norman period 
— the gold ornaments, the gorgeous manuscripts, such as the 
Gospels of Durrow and of Kells ; the grandest of the sculptured 
crosses, Cormae's Chapel, that architectural gem of Western 
Europe ; the richly decorated shrines, such as that of St. Monchan, 
" the most important ancient shrine now in existence in these 
islands," Mr. Westwood states; and specially interesting to us 
Irish, from the recorded fact that it was covered with pure gold 
by Roderick O'Connor, the last king of Ireland, and was, as the 
Annals state, the most beautiful piece of art ever made in Erin. 
All these evidences of high cultivation and artistic skill were in 
existence long before the Norman adventurers set foot on our 
shores. Irish art, however, died out with Irish Nationality ; and 
in two centuries or so, after the Norman Conquest, it ceased to 
exist, and was replaced by the pseudo-Roman or Irish Romanesque 
style. Irish art can be easily traced throughout the Continent by 
the peculiar ornamentation which characterized it ; and wherever, 
amongst the early manuscripts in foreign libraries, one is found 
surpassing all the rest in the singular beauty and firmness of the 
writing, and the exquisite delicacy of the minute and elaborate 
illuminations, there at once an Irish hand is recognized as worker, 
or an Irish intellect as teacher. The same symbols and ideas run 
through all of them — there are the same strange, elongated, con- 
torted, intertwined figures; the same rich mosaics of interlaced 
Lines — so minute, so delicate, so rich in brilliant colours, that the 
border of the page seems powdered with crushed jewels. There 
is something almost melancholy in this devotion to a species of 
art in which there was nothing to stimulate the feelings or to 
warm the heart. No representation of nature's glories in tree or 
flower, or the splendour of human beauty ; the artist's aim being 
rather, it would seem, to kill the human in him, by forcing his 
genius to work only on the cold abstractions of spirals and curves, 
and endless geometrical involutions, and the infinite monotony 
of those interlaced lines, still coiling on, for ever and ever, through 
the centuries, like the windings of the serpent of evil, which they 
were meant to symbolize, through the successive generations of 
our fated humanity. Truly, these artists offered up the sacrifice 
of love. Their lives and the labour of their lives were given 


humbly, silently, reverently to God, and the glory of God's Word. 
They had no other aim in life, and when the work was done, a 
work so beautiful that even now the world cannot equal it, there 
was no vainglorious boast of himself came from the lips of the 
artist worker, but the manuscript ends with some simple devotional 
words, his name, and the desire to be remembered as the writer, 
like the orate pro me on the ancient tombstones ; this was all he 
asked or hoped for in return for the years of youth and life he 
had incarnated in the illuminated pages of the Gospels. For in 
those early ages art had no existence save in union with religion. 
Humanity brought together all its most precious ointments to 
pour upon the feet of Jesus. In Ireland especially — the Island of 
Saints — whatever genius could devise or the hand of the artist 
could execute was lavished upon some work that would recall 
the presence of God to the people, stimulate His worship, or 
make known His word; upon the Psalters, the Gospels, the 
crosses, the costly shrines, the jewelled cases for a saint's relics, 
the golden covers for the holy books. But nothing of that period 
has come down to us that shows a luxury in domestic life. The 
Word of God was shrined in gold, made rich with gems and 
enamels, but the people lived their old simple life in their old 
rude huts ; and even the kings gave their wealth, not to erect 
palaces, but to build churches, to endow abbeys, to help the 
cause of God, and speed the holy men who were His ministers, 
in their crusade against evil, ignorance and darkness. 

It is no idle boast to say that the Irish were the teachers of 
Europe from the seventh to the tenth century in art and religion. 
Mr. Westwood has visited all the great libraries of England and 
the Continent and found abundant evidence that Irish art, or 
Hiberno-Saxon art, was diffused over Europe during that period. 
The Greek and Latin manuscripts are not illuminated, but are 
adorned with intercalated pictures ; Irish art differs from them 
in many respects — amongst others, in having the figures and rich 
ornamentations printed on the leaves and borders of the book 
itself. He has given facsimiles from Irish manuscripts now 
existing in the libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Lichfield, 
Salisbury, Lambeth, the British Museum, and other places ; and, 
passing to the Continent, has laid under contribution the great 
libraries of Paris, Rouen, Boulogne, St. Gall, Milan, Rome, 
Munich, Darmstadt, Stockholm, Copenhagen, and even St. Peters- 
burg, and thus proved the excellence to which Irish artists, or 
Saxon artists educated in Irish schools, attained more than a 
thousand years ago. Nor is it strange that Ireland should have 
been the teacher, considering its early Christianity, which had 
made some progress amongst the people even in St. Jerome's time ; 
a little later amongst the Britons ; but at the end of the sixth 
century Augustine and his monks found the stolid Anglo-Saxons 

m SKETCHES 0£ TH$ iRtflla PAST. 

still in the "bonds of their ancient paganism and Wodenism. The 
Celtic race received the Christian faith gladly as early as the 
fourth century, hut it was a difficult matter to bring light to the 
Saxon soul. It has at all times proved itself rather opaque in 
nature. The Saxon tribes of Germany did not renounce their 
idols till forced to it by the strong coercive power and keen sword 
of Charlemagne, in the latter half of the eighth century. 

With Christianity came to Ireland the knowledge of letters ; 
at least no older inscription has been found than that on the pillar 
stone of Lugnadon, St. Patrick's nephew, which may still be seen 
beside the ruin of St. Patrick's oratory in one of the beautiful 
islands of Lough Corrib ;* and the oldest manuscript existing in 
Ireland is the Book of Armagh, a copy of St, Jerome's Latin 
version of the Gospels written in the old Roman letters, and very 
valuable for the beauty of the writing and the various drawings 
it contains. Learning was at once consecrated to the service of 
God in those early days, and to multiply copies of the Gospels was 
the praiseworthy and devout task of the first great teachers and 
missionaries. The Book of Burrow and the Book of Kells, both 
of the early part of the sixth century, are believed to be the work 
of St. Columba himself. The latter, the Book of Kells, has filled 
all critics with wonder and admiration. It is more decorated than 
any existing copy of the Gospels, and is pronounced by learned 
authorities to be u the most beautiful manuscript in existence of 
so early a date, and the most magnificent specimen of penmanship 
and illumination in the Western World." They are both written 
in the Latin uncial character, common to Europe at the time ; 
and here it may be noticed, in passing, that the so-called Irish 
alphabet is simply the Latin alphabet modified by the first 
missionaries to suit the Irish sounds, as Ulphila, the apostle of the 
Goths, invented an alphabet of mingled Greek and Latin 
characters, in order to enable him to make his translation of the 
Gospels into Gothic ; and as the Greek missionaries invented the 
Russian alphabet, which is a modified form of the Greek, for a 
like purpose. That the Irish should retain the old form of the 
Latin letters, while most of the other nations of Europe have 
discarded it, is to be regretted, as nothing would facilitate the 
study of Irish so much at the present day, when one has so 
little leisure to spell out with much painful endeavour the 
barbarous symbols of a bygone age, as the adoption of the modern 
English alphabet. The first Irish book that was ever printed 
appeared in 1571, and is now in the Bodleian Library. It is a 
catechism of Irish grammar, and the Irish alphabet has suffered 
no modification or improvement since* It was about the end of 

* See Sir William Wilde's work, " Lough Corrib : its Shores and Islands," 
where a drawing of this inscription is given. 


the sixth century that the fame of Irish learning and the skill of 
Irish artists began to extend to England, and from thence to the 
Continent ; and Irish scribes were employed to make copies of the 
Gospels and teach the splendid art of illumination in the English 
monasteries. Prom that period till the end of the ninth century 
the Irish were a power in Europe from their learning and piety — 
eminent in Greek as well as Latin, and the great teachers of 
scholastic theology to the Christian world. The Gospels of 
Lindisfarne, executed by monks of Iona in the seventh century, 
and now "the glory of the British Museum," form a most 
important element in the early history of Celtic art, as this book 
seems to have been the principal model for succeeding artists. 

In the splendid folio copy of the Gospels at Copenhagen of the 
tenth century, supposed to have been brought to Denmark by 
King Canute, the figure of St. Matthew seated, while another 
saint draws back a curtain, is copied from the Gospels of Lindis- 
f arne, while the border is in the tenth century style. The Gospels 
of St. Chad, now in Lichfield Library, are in the Irish style of 
the eighth century, and are very noticeable as having marginal 
notes in Latin, Anglo-Saxon, and ancient British, the latter being 
the oldest specimen of the ancient British language now in 
existence. The illuminations also are copied from the Lindisfarne 
book. St. Chad, it is known, was educated in Ireland, in the 
school of St. Finian. There are Irish Gospels at Durham of the 
eighth century. The Gospels of Mac-Regal are at Oxford, and 
the Gospels of Mac-Duran, the smallest and most beautiful known, 
are in the Archbishop's palace at Lambeth. As Saxon art 
progressed and became influenced by Roman models, the Irish 
scribes were chiefly employed wherever elegance, harmony of 
colour, and extreme delicacy of touch were particularly requisite, 
as in the borders and initial letters. Thus, the Psalter of St. 
Augustine, said to be from Rome, and which resembles in style 
the manuscript Virgil of the fifth century, in the Vatican, is 
framed in pure Celtic art. On the Continent, also, the borders of 
the great manuscripts were generally confined to Irish hands. A 
Latin copy of the Gospels at Treves, evidently produced by one 
of the establishments founded by the Irish upon the Rhine, is 
remarkable for a combination of Celtic, Teutonic, and Pranco- 
Byzantine art. The borders are Irish while the figures are 
Byzantine. These illuminated borders have the glitter and 
radiance of a setting of jewels, and are thus admirably suited to 
fulfil the true object of all ornamentation, which Mr. Ruskin 
defines as being " beautiful in its place, and perfect in its adapta- 
tion to the purpose for which it was employed." 

In the sixth century St. Gall, born in Ireland, accompanied St. 
Columbanus to the Continent, and founded the monastery in 
Switzerland that bears his name. Here raany interesting manu* 


scripts and fragments are still preserved, remarkable for the old 
Irish marginal notes to the Latin text. These are considered by 
philologists of such importance that thirteen quarto plates and 
facsimiles from them are given by Dr. Ferdinand Keller in the 
Zurich Society's Transactions. An interesting relic of an Irish 
saint is also preserved in the Cathedral of "Wurtzburg — a copy of 
the Gospels of St. Kilian, martyred in 689, and which was found 
stained with his blood on opening his tomb about fifty years after. 
Thus, the Irish can be tracked, as it were, across Europe by 
their illuminated footsteps. They were emphatically the witnesses 
of Gfod, the light-bearers through the dark ages, and above all, 
the faithful guardians and preservers of God's sacred Word. A 
hundred years before Alfred came to Ireland to be educated, and 
went back to civilize his native country by the knowledge he had 
acquired there, the Christian schools of Germany, under the 
direction of Irishmen, had been founded by Charlemagne. Through 
France, along the Rhine, through Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, 
the Irish missionaries taught and worked, founding schools and 
monasteries, and illuminating by their learning the darkest pages 
of European history. One of the great treasures of the Imperial 
Library of Paris is a beautiful Irish copy of the Latin Gospels. 
The College of St. Isidore, at Rome, possesses many Irish manu- 
scripts — one of them is a Psalter, folio size, written throughout 
in letters a quarter of an inch long, and which is considered to be 
the finest of the later works of the Irish school. The celebrated 
Golden Gospels of Stockholm are of Hiberno-Saxon art of the 
ninth century. This book has a singular history. It was stolen 
from England, and disappeared for ages, but finally was discovered 
at Mantua in the seventeenth century, and purchased for the 
Royal Library at Stockholm. St. Petersburg also possesses a 
highly illuminated copy of the Gospels, which was taken from 
France at the time of the great Revolution, and found its way to 
the far North. It is a perfect and beautiful specimen of the Irish 
style of the eight century, and the initial letters can only be 
compared to those of the Book of Kells. All these Irish manu- 
script Gospels are, without exception, copies of St. Jerome's Latin 
version. No Irish translation of the Gospels has ever been found. 
Learning was evidently considered a sacred thing, indispensable 
for the priesthood, but not necessary for the masses ; yet it seems 
strange that while the learned and pious Irish saints and mission- 
aries were devoting their lives to multiplying copies of the 
Gospels for other nations, and disseminating them over Europe, 
they never thought of giving the people of their own land the 
Word of God to read in their own native tongue. The leading 
Teutonic races, on the contrary, with their free spirit, were not 
satisfied with accepting the doctrines of the faith, simply as an 
act of obedience to their teachers. They demanded the right of 


private judgment, the exercise of individual reason, and the 
Gospels were translated into Gothic as early as the fourth century 
by Bishop Ulphila for the use of the Gothic nation. 

This remarkable book, called the " Oodex Argenteus," is now in 
the Koyal Library of Upsala, having, after many dangers and 
vicissitudes, at last found its way to the people who hold them- 
selves the true descendants of the Goths, and whose king still 
bears the proud title of "King of the Swedes, Goths, and 
Vandals ; " and an edition of it, with annotations, has been pub- 
lished by the learned Professor Andreas Uppstrom, of Upsala. 

Towards the close of the tenth century the Frankish style of 
ornamentation, a blending of the classical and the Byzantine, had 
almost entirely superseded the beautiful and delicate Celtic art 
both in England and on the Continent, and about the fifteenth 
century it disappeared even from our own Ireland, the country of 
its origin. The gorgeous missals and illuminated Gospels, instinct 
with life, genius, holy reverence, and patient love, were destined 
to be replaced soon after by the dull mechanism of print ; while 
Protestantism used all its new-found strength to destroy that 
innate tendency of our nature which seeks to manifest religious 
fervour, faith, and zeal by costly offerings and sacrifices. The 
golden-bordered holy books, the sculptured crosses, the jewelled 
shrines were crushed under the heel of Cromwell's troopers ; the 
majestic and beautiful abbeys were desecrated and cast down to 
ruin, while beside them rose the mean and ugly structures of the 
Reformed faith, as if the annihilation of all beauty were then 
considered to be the most acceptable homage which man could 
offer to the God who created all beauty, and fitted the human 
soul to enjoy and manifest the spiritual, mystic, and eternal love- 
liness of form, and colour, and symmetry. 

Since that mournful period when the conquering iconoclasts 
cast down the temples and crushed the spirit of our people, there 
has been no revival of art in Ireland. It is not wonderful, there- 
fore, that we cling with so much of fond, though sad, admiration 
to the beautiful memorials of the past, and welcome with warm 
appreciation the efforts of able, learned and distinguished men to 
illustrate and preserve them, as in this splendid and costly book 
which Mr. Westwood has contributed to Celtic art. 


The history of Dublin, so admirably narrated by Mr, Gilbert in 
his learned and instructive volumes,* begins the modern period of 

* " The History of Dublin." 3 vols. By J. T. Gilbert, M.E.I.A. Dublin. 


Irish history when Ireland became indissoluhly united with the 
British Empire — the greatest empire of the world — and legendary 
lore, like all the ancient usages and superstitions, began to fade 
and perish before advancing civilization, as the luxurious under- 
growth of a primeval forest before advancing culture. 

A sketch of the rise of the capital of Ireland, with all the 
changes produced in Irish life by the new modes of thought and 
action introduced by Norman influence, forms therefore a fitting 
close to the legendary and early-historic period, so full of poetry 
and charm for the imagination, with its splendour of kings and 
bards, its shadowy romance and mist-woven dreams, and its ideal 
fairy world of beauty and grace, of music and song ; when the 
people lived the free, joyous life of the childhood of humanity 
, under their native princes, and the terrible struggle of a crushed 
and oppressed nation against a foreign master had not yet begun ; 
the struggle that has lasted for seven centuries, and still goes on 
with exhaustless force and fervour. 

The history of cities is the history of nations — the most perfect 
index of the social altitude, mental development, physical per- 
fection, and political freedom, which at any given period a people 
may have attained. Every stone within a city is a hieroglyphic 
of the century that saw it raised. By it we trace human pro- 
gression through all its phases ; from the first rude fisher's hut, 
the altar of the primitive priest, the mound of the first nomad 
warrior, the stone fortalice or simple fane of the early Christian 
race, up to the stately and beautiful temples and palaces which 
evidence the luxury and refinement of a people in its proudest 
excess, or human genius in its climax of manifestation. 

Thus Babylon, Thebes, Home, Jerusalem, are words that express 
nations. The ever-during interest of the world circles round 
them, for their ruins are true and eternal pages of human history. 
Every fallen column is a fragment of a past ritual, or a symbol of 
a dynasty. The very dust is vital with great memories, and a 
philosopher, like the comparative anatomist, might construct the 
entire life of a people — its religion, literature, and laws — from 
these fragments of extinct generations — these fossil paleographs 
of man. 

Statue and column, mausoleum and shrine, are trophies of a 
nation's triumphs or its tragedies. The young children, as they 
g*aze on them, learn the story of the native heroes, poets, saints, 
and martyrs, leaders and lawgivers, who have flung their own 
srlory as a regal mantle over their country. Spirits of the pest, 
from the phantom-land, dwell in the midst of them. We feel 
their presence, and hear their words of inspiration or warning, 
alike in the grandeur or decadence of an ancient city. 

Modern capitals represent also, not only the history of the past, 
but the living concentrated wijl of the entire nation. Thus is it 


with London, Berlin, and Vienna, while Paris, the citS verbe, as 
Victor Hugo calls her, represents not only the tendencies of France, 
but of Europe. 

Dublin, however, differs from all other capitals, past or present, 
in this wise — that by its history we trace, not the progress of the 
native race, but the triumphs of its enemies ; and that the con- 
centrated will of Dublin has always been in antagonism to the 
feelings of a large portion of the nation. 

The truth is, that though our chief city of Ireland has an 
historical existence older than Christianity, yet this fair Ath~ 
Cliath has no pretension to be called our ancient mother. From 
first to last, from a thousand years ago till now, Dublin has held 
the position of a foreign fortress within the kingdom; and its 
history has no other emblazonment beyond that of unceasing hos- 
tility or indifference to the native race. 

"The inhabitants are mere English, though of Irish birth/' 
wrote Hooker, three hundred years ago. " The citizens," says 
Holingshed, " have from time to time so galled the Irish, that 
even to this day the Irish fear a ragged and jagged black standard 
that the citizens have, though almost worn to the stumps." Up 
to Henry the Seventh's reign, an Englishman of Dublin was not"* 
punished for killing an Irishman, nor were Irishmen admitted to 
any office within the city that concerned the government either of 
the souls or bodies of the citizens. The Viceroys, the Archbishops, 
the Judges, the Mayors, the Corporations, were all and always 
English, down to the very guild of tailors, of whom it stands on 
record that they would allow no Irishman to be of their fraternity. 
As the American colonists treated the red man, as the Spaniards 
of Cortez treated the Mexicans, as the English colony of India 
treated the ancient Indian princes, tribes, and people, so the 
English race of Dublin treated the Irish nation. They were a 
people to be crushed, ruined, persecuted, tormented, extirpated ; 
and the Irish race, it must be confessed, retorted the hatred with 
as bitter an animosity. The rising of 1641 was like all Irish 
attempts — a wild, helpless, disorganized effort at revenge; and 
seven years later we read that Owen Roe O'Neil burned the 
country about Dublin, so that from one steeple there two hundred 
fires could be seen at once. 

This being the position of a country and its capital, it is evident 
that no effort for national independence could gam nourishment in 
Dublin. Our metropolis is associated with no glorious moment of 
a nation's career, while in all the dark tragedies of our gloomy 
history its name and influence predominate. Dublin is connected 
with Irish patriotism only by the scaffold and the gallows. Statue 
and column do indeed rise there, but not to honour the sons of the 
eoil. The public idols are foreign potentates and foreign heroes. 
Maeaulay says eloquently pn this subject, " The. Irish people ar© 


doomed to see in every place the monuments of their subjugation ; 
before the senate-house, the statue of their conqueror — within, 
the walls tapestried with the defeats of their fathers." 

No public statue of an illustrious Irishman until recently ever 
graced the Irish capital. No monument exists to which the gaze 
of the young Irish children can be directed, while their fathers 
tell them, " This was to the glory of your countrymen." Even 
the lustre Dublin borrowed from her great Norman colonists has 
passed away. Her nobility are remembered only as we note the 
desecration of their palaces ; the most beautiful of all our metro- 
politan buildings but reminds us that there the last remnant of 
political independence was sold ; the stately Custom-house, that 
Dublin has no trade ; the regal pile of Dublin Castle, that it was 
reared by foreign hands to " curb and awe the city." 

It is in truth a gloomy task to awaken the memories of Dublin, 
even of this century. There, in that obscure house of Thomas 
Street, visions rise of a ghastly night-scene, where the young, 
passionate-hearted Geraldine was struggling vainly in death-agony 
with his betrayers and captors. Pass on through the same street, 
and close by St. Catherine's Church you can trace the spot where 
the gallows was erected for Robert Emmet. Before that sombre 
prison pile two young brothers, handsome, educated, and well- 
born, and many a fair young form after them, expiated by death 
their fatal aspirations for Irish freedom. Look at that magnifi- 
cent portal, leading now to the tables of the money-changers ; 
through it, not a century ago, men, entrusted with the nation's 
rights, entered to sell them, and came forth, not branded traitors, 
but decorated, enriched, and rewarded with titles, pensions, and 

Yet the anomalous relation between our country and its capital 
springs naturally from the antecedents of both. Dublin was 
neither built by the Irish nor peopled by the Irish ; it is a Scan- 
dinavian settlement in the midst of a southern nation. Long even 
before the Norman invasion two races existed in Ireland, as dif- 
ferent as the lines of migration by which each had reached it; 
and though ages have rolled away since Scythian and Southern 
first met in this distant land, yet the elemental distinctions have 
never been lost : the races have never blended into one homogen- 
eous nationality. Other nations, like the English, have blended 
with their conquerors, and progression and a higher civilization 
have been the result. Roman, Saxon, Dane, and Norman, each 
left their impress on the primitive Briton ; and from Roman 
courage, Saxon thrift, and Norman pride has been evolved the 
strong, wise, proud island-nation that rules the world — the Ocean- 
Rome. A similar blending of opposite elements, but in different 
proportions, has produced Scotch national character — grave, wise, 
learned, provident, industrious, and unconquerably independent. 


But the Irish race remains distinct from all others, as Jew or 
Zincali. It has no elective affinities, enters into no new combina- 
tions, forms no new results, attracts to itself no Scythian qualities 
of stern self-reliance and the indomitable pride of independence, 
but still retains all the old virtues and vices of their semi-oriental 
nature, which make the history of Ireland so sad a record of 
mere passionate impulses ending mostly in failure and despair. 
The English, slow in speech'.and repellent in manner, are yet able 
not only to rule themselves well and ably, but to rule the world ; 
while the Irish, so fascinating, eloquent, brave, and gifted, have 
never yet achieved a distinctive place in the political system of 
Europe. We had even the advantage of an earlier education; 
we taught England her letters, Christianized her people, sheltered 
her saints, educated her princes ; we give her the best generals, 
the best statesmen, the best armies ; yet, withal, we have never 
yet found the strength to govern our own kingdom. Ethnologists 
will tell you this comes of race. It may be so. Let us then sail 
up the stream of time to Ararat, and try to find our ancestry 
amongst the children of the eight primal gods, as the ancients 
termed them, who there stepped forth from their ocean prison to 
people the newly baptized world. 

A very clever German advises all reviewers to begin from the 
Deluge, so that by no possibility can a single fact, direct or col- 
lateral, escape notice connected with the matter in hand. When 
treating of Ireland this rule becomes a necessity. Our nation 
dates from the dispersion, and our faults and failings, our features 
and our speech, have an authentic hereditary descent of four thou- 
sand years. Other primitive nations have been lost by migration, 
annihilated by war, swallowed up in empires, overwhelmed by 
barbarians : thus it was that the old kingdoms of Europe changed 
masters, and that the old nations and tongues passed away. Here 
only, in this island prison of the Atlantic, can the old race of 
primitive Europe be still found existing as a nation, speaking the 
same tongue as the early tribes that first wandered westward, 
when Europe itself was an unpeopled wilderness. 

We learn from saered'record that the first migrations of the 
human family, with " one language and one speech/' were from 
the East ; and every successive wave of population has still flowed 
from the rising towards the setting sun. The progression of in- 
tellect and science is ever westward. The march of humanity is 
opposed to the path of the planet. Life moves contrary to matter. 
A metaphor, it may be, of our spirit exile — this travelling " daily 
further from the East ; " yet, when at the farthest limit, we are 
but approaching the glory of the East again. 

Gradually, along the waters of the Mediterranean, the beautiful 
islands on its bosom serving as resting-places for the wanderers, 
or bridges for the tribes to pass over, the primal families of the 


Japhetian race reached in succession the three great Peninsulas of 
the Great Sea, in each leaving the germ of a mighty nation. Still 
onward, led by the providence of God, they passed the portals of 
the Atlantic, coasted the shores of the vine-clad France, and so 
reached at length the " Isles of the Setting Sun," upon the very 
verge of Western Europe. 

But many centuries may have elapsed during the slow progres- 
sion of these maritime colonies, who have left their names 
indelibly stamped on the earth's surface, from Ionia to the Tar- 
tessus of Spain ; and Miriam may have chanted the death-song of 
Pharaoh, and Moses led forth the people of God, before the 
descendants of the first navigators landed amidst the verdant 
solitudes of Ireland. 

The earliest tribes that reached our island, though removed so 
far from the centre of light and wisdom, must still have been 
familiar with all science necessary to preserve existence, and to 
organize a new country into a human habitation. They cleared 
the forests, worked the mines, built chambers for the dead, after 
the manner of their kindred left in Tyre and Greece, wrought 
arms, defensive and offensive, such as the heroes of Marathon 
used against the long-haired Persians; they raised altars and 
pillar-stones, still standing amongst us, mysterious and eternal 
symbols of a simple primitive creed ; they had bards, priests, and 
lawgivers, the old tongue of Shinar,the dress of Nineveh, and the 
ancient faith whose ritual was prayer and sacrifice. 

The kindred races who remained stationary, built cities and 
temples, still a world's wonder, and arts flourished amongst them 
impossible to the nomads of the plains, or the wanderers by the 
ocean islands ; but the destiny of dispersion was still on the race, 
and from these central points of civilization, tribes and families 
constantly went forth to achieve new conquests over the yet 
untamed earth. 

Whatever wisdom the early island colonizers had brought with 
them, would have died out for want of nourishment, had not 
these new tribes, from countries where civilization had become 
developed and permanent, constantly given fresh impulses to pro- 
gress. With stronger and more powerful arts and arms, they, in 
succession, gained dominion over their weaker predecessors, and 
by commerce, laws, arts, and learning, they organized families 
into nations, enlightening while they subjugated. 

The conquest of Canaan gave the second great impetus to 
the human tides ever flowing westward. Irish tradition has 
even, in a confused manner, preserved the names of two amongst 
the leaders of the Sidonian fugitives who landed in Ireland. 
Partholan, with his wife Elga, and Gadelius, with his wife Scota. 

"This Gadelius," say the legends, "was a noble gentleman, 
right wise ? valiant^ and well snokep, who, after Pharaoh was 


drowned, sailed for Spain, and from thence to Ireland, with a 
colony of Greeks and Egyptians, and his wife Seota, a daughter 
of Pharaoh's ; and he taught letters to the Irish, and warlike 
feats after the Greek and Egyptian manner." 
^ These later tribes brought with them the Syrian arts and civi- 
lization, such as dyeing and weaving, working in gold, silver, and 
brass, besides the written characters, the same that Cadmus after- 
wards gave to Greece, and which remained in use amongst the 
Irish, it is said, until modified by Saint Patrick into their present 
form, to assimilate them to the Latin. 

Continued intercourse with their Syrian kindred soon filled 
Ireland with the refinement of a luxurious civilization. From 
various sources, we learn that in those ancient times, the native 
dress was costly and picturesque, and the habits and modes of 
living of the chiefs and kings splendid and Oriental. The high- 
born and the wealthy wore tunics of fine linen of immense width, 
girdled with gold and with flowing sleeves after the Eastern 
fashion. The fringed cloak, or cuchula, with a hood, after the 
Arab mode, was clasped on the shoulders with a golden brooch. 
Golden circlets, of beautiful and classic form, confined their long, 
flowing hair, and, crowned with their diadems, the chiefs sat at 
the banquet, or went forth to war. Sandals upon the feet, and 
bracelets and signet rings, of rich and curious workmanship, com- 
pleted the costume. The ladies wore the silken robes and flowing 
veils of Persia, or rolls of linen wound round the head like the 
Egyptian Isis, the hair curiously plaited down the back and fas- 
tened with gold or silver bodkins, while the neck and arms were 
profusely covered with jewels.* 

For successive centuries, this race, half Tyrian and half Greek, 
held undisputed possession of Ireland, maintaining, it is said, con- 
stant intercourse with the parent state, and, when Tyre fell, 
commercial relations were continued with Carthage. Communi- 
cation between such distant lands was nothing to Phoenician en- 
terprise. Phoenicians in the service of an Egyptian king had 
sailed round Africa and doubled the Cape of Good Hope two 
thousand years before the Portuguese. The same people built 
the navy of King Solomon a thousand years before Christ ; and 
led the fleet to India for the gold necessary for the Temple. 

* These relics of a civilization three thousand years old, may still be 
gazed upon by modern eyes in the splendid and unrivalled antiquarian 
collection of the Royal Irish Academy. The golden circlets, the fibulas, 
torques, bracelets, rings, &c, worn by the ancient race, are not only costly 
in value, but often so singularly beautiful in the working out of minute 
artistic details, that modern art is not merely unable to equal them, but 
unable even to comprehend how the ancient workers in metals could 
accomplish works of such delicate, almost microscopic minuteness of 


Tliey cast the brazen vessels for the altar, employing for the pur- 
pose the tin which their merchants must have brought from the 
British Isles. Thus, to use the words of Humboldt, there can be 
no doubt that three thousand years ago " the Tyrian flag waved 
from Britain to the Indian Ocean." 

A king of the race, long before Romulus founded Eome, erected 
a college at Tara, where the Druids taught the wisdom of Egypt, 
the mysteries of Samothrace, and the religion of Tyre. Then it 
was that Ireland was known as Innis-Alga — the Holy Island — 
held sacred by the Tyrian mariners as the " Temple of the Setting 
Sun : " the last limit of Europe, from whence they could watch 
his descent into the mysterious western ocean. 

But onward still came the waves of human life, unceasing, 
unresting. Driven forth from Carthage, Spain, and Gaul, the 
ancient race fled to the limits of the coast, then surged back, 
fought and refought the battle, conquering and yielding by turns, 
till at length the Syrian and the Latin elements blended into a 
new compound, which laid the foundation of modern Europe. 
But some tribes, disdaining such a union, fled from Spain to 
Ireland, and thus a new race, but of the old kindred, was flung on 
our shores by destiny. 

The leaders, brave, warlike, and of royal blood, speedily 
assumed kingly sway, and all the subsequent monarchs of Ireland, 
the O'Briens, the O'Connors, the O'Neils, the O'Donnels, and 
other noble races, claim descent from them ; and very proud, even 
to this day, are the families amongst the Irish who can trace back 
their pedigree to these princely Spaniards. 

We have spoken hitherto but of the maritime? colonists — that 
portion of the primal race who launched their ships on the 
Mediterranean to found colonies and kingdoms along its shores; 
then passing out through the ocean straits, the human tides 
surged upon the western limits of Europe, till the last wave found 
a rest on the green sward of ancient Erin. The habits of these 
first colonists were agricultural, commercial, and unwarlike ; and 
ancient historians have left us a record of their temperament; 
volatile and fickle ; passionate in joy and grief, with quick vivid 
natures prone to sudden excesses ; religious and superstitious ; a 
small, dark-eyed race, lithe of limb and light of heart ; the eternal 
children of humanity. 

For illustrations we need not here refer to the Royal Irish 
Academy, for as they looked and lived three thousand years ago, 
they may be seen to this day in the mountains of Connemara and 

While this race travelled westward to the ocean by the great 
southern sea, other families of the Japhetian tribes were pressing 
westward also, but by the great northern plains. From Western 
India, by the Caspian and the Caucasus, past the shores of the 


Euxine, and still westward along the great rivers of Central 
Europe, up to the rude coasts of the Baltic, could be tracked " the 
Westward marches of the unknown crowded nations/' carrying with 
them fragments of the early Japhetian wisdom, and memories of 
the ancient primal tongue brought from the far East; but, as they 
removed further from the great lines of human intercourse, and 
were subjected to the influence of rigorous climates and 
nomadic habits, gradually becoming a rude, fierce people of 
warriors and hunters, 'predatory and cruel, living by the chase, 
warring with the wild wolves for their prey, and with each other 
for the best pasture-grounds. Driven by the severity of the 
seasons to perpetual migration, they built no cities and raised no 
monuments, save the sepulchral mound, which can be traced from 
Tartary to the German Ocean. 

Without the civilizing aids of commerce or literature, their 
language degenerated into barbarous dialects ; their clothing was 
the skin of wild beasts ; their religion, confused relics of ancient 
creeds,? contributed by the wandering colonies of Egypt, Media, 
Greece, and Tyre, which occasionally blended with the Scythian 
hordes, wherein Isis, Mercury, and Hercules, the symbols of wis- 
dom, eloquence, and courage, were the objects worshipped, though 
deteriorated by savage and sanguinary rites, whose sacrifices were 
human victims, and whose best votary was he who had slain most 

From long wandering through the gloomy regions where the 
sun is darkened by perpetual clouds, they called themselves the 
" Children of the Night," and looked on her as the primal mother 
of all things. 

Their pastimes symbolized the fierce daring of their lives. At 
their banquets they quaffed mead from the skulls of the slain, and 
chanted war-songs to the music of their clashing bucklers, while 
their dances were amid the points of their unsheathed swords. 

From the influence of climate, and from constant intermarriage 
amongst themselves, certain physical and mental types became 
permanently fixed, and the gigantic frame, the fair hair and " stern 
blue eyes"* of the Scythian tribes, along with their bold, free, 
warlike, independent spirit, are still the marked characteristic of 
their descendants. For amidst these rude races of lion-hearted 
men, who cleared the forests of Central Europe for future empires, 
there were great and noble virtues born of their peculiar mode of 
life : a love of freedom, a lofty sense of individual dignity, bold 
defiance of tyranny, a fortitude and courage that rose to heroism 
— the spirit that brooks no fetter either on the mind or frame. 
We see that such men were destined for world-rulers. To them 
Furope is indebted for her free political systems j the chivalry 

* The expression of Tacitus, 


that ennobled warfare and elevated women, and the religious 
reformation that freed Christianity from superstition. Every 
charter of human freedom dates from the Scythian forests. 

The great northern concourse of fierce, wild tribes, compre- 
hended originally under the name of Scythians, or Wanderers, 
having spread themselves over the north to the very kingdom of 
the Frost-Giants, amidst frozen seas and drifting glaciers, turned 
southward, tempted by softer climes and richer lands, and under 
the names of Goth, Vandal, Frank, and Norman, devastating 
tribes of the Scythian warriors poured their rude masses upon the 
early and refined civilization of the Mediterranean nations, con- 
quering wherever they appeared and holding bravely whatever 
they conquered. 

The Roman empire trembled and vanished before the terrible 
might of the long-haired Goths. They sacked Rome and 
threatened Constantinople : Africa, Italy, Spain, France, and 
Germany yielded to the barbaric power. Before the fifth cen- 
tury the Scythians had conquered the world, and every kingdom 
in Europe is ruled by them to this hour. 

How strangely contrasted the destinies of the two great 
Japhetian races ! "What vicissitudes of fortune ! The refined, 
lettered, oriental light-bringers to Europe — the founders of all 
kingdoms, the first teachers of all knowledge, the race that 
peopled Tyre, Carthage, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Gaul, degraded, 
humbled, and almost annihilated ; the last poor remnant of them 
crushed up in the remote fastnesses of the hills along the coast- 
line of Europe ; step by step driven backwards to the Atlantic, as 
the red man of America had been driven to the Pacific, till, over 
the whole earth they can be found nowhere as a nation, save only 
in Ireland, while the rude, fierce Scandinavian hordes have risen 
up to be the mightiest of the earth. Greece subdued Asia, and 
Rome subdued Greece, but Scythia conquered Rome ! The 
children of night and of the dark forests rule the kingdoms that 
rule the world. 

They have given language and laws to modern empires, and at 
the present day are at the head of all that is most powerful, most 
thoughtful, most enterprising, and most learned throughout the 
entire globe. 

The story of how the Scythian first came to the British Islands, 
has been preserved in the Welsh annals, which date back three 
thousand years. The legend runs that their ancestors, the nation 
of the Cimbri, wandered long over Europe, forgetting God's 
name, and the early wisdom. At length they crossed " the hazy 
sea " (the German Ocean) from the country of the pools (Belgium) 
and came to Britain, the sea-girt land, called by them Cambria,* 

* This is the Latinized form of the original word 


or, first mother; and they were the first who trod the soil ok 
Britain. There their poets and bards recovered the lost name of 
God, the sacred I.A.O., and the primal letters their forefathers 
had known, called the ten signs. And ever since they have pos- 
sessed religion and literature, though the bards kept the signs 
secret for many ages, so that all learning might be limited to 

The paramount monarch of the Cimbri nation reigned at Lon- 
don, and a state of poetry and peace long continued, till the 
Dragon-Aliens appeared on their coasts. The ancient Cirnbri re- 
treated into Wales, where they have ever since remained. The 
Picts seized on Caledonia, and the Saxons on England, until, in 
their turn, they were conquered by the Danes. 

Ireland at that period was the most learned and powerful island 
of the West. Through all changes of European dynasties she 
retained her independence. From the Milesian to the Norman, 
no conqueror had trod her soil.* 

Meanwhile England, who never yet successfully resisted an 
invading enemy, passed under many a foreign yoke. For five 
hundred years the Romans held her as a province to supply their 
legions with recruits, and the abject submission of the natives 
called forth the bitter sarcasm, that " the good of his country was 
the only cause in which a Briton had forgot to die." 

The acquisition of Ireland was eagerly coveted by the imperial 
race, but though Agricola boasted he would conquer it with a 
single legion, and even went so far towards the completion of his 
design as to line all the opposite coasts of Wales with his troops, 
yet no Roman soldier ever set foot on Irish soil. 

Rome had enough of work on hand just then, for Alaric the 
Goth is at her gates, and Attila, the scourge of God, is ravaging 
her fairest provinces. The imperial mother of Colonies can no 
longer hold her own or aid her children ; England is abandoned to 
her fate, and the Irish from the west, the Scythian from the 
north, the Saxon from the east, assault, and desolate, and despoil 

The Scythian Picts pour (down on her cities, "killing, burning, 
and destroying." The Irish land in swarms from their corrahs, 
and "with fiery outrage and cruelty, carry, harry, and make 
havoc of all." Thus bandied between two insolent enemies, the 
English sent ambassadors to Rome "with their garments rent, 
and sand upon their heads," bearing that most mournful appeal of 
an humbled people — " to JEtius, thrice Consul : the groans of the 
Britons. The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea drives us 
back to the barbarians ; thus, between two kinds of death, we are 
either slaughtered or drowned." 

* The Danes were never more than a colony in Ireland. 



Bui no help comes, for Rome herself is devastated by Hun and 
Vandal, and the empire is falling like a shattered world. 

Thus England passed helplessly under the Saxon yoke, and so 
rested some hundred years ; Ireland the while remaining as free 
from Saxon thrall as she had been from Roman rule. 

Through all these centuries the current of human life still flowed 
westward from the unknown mysterious regions of Central Asia. 

It was about the close of the eighth century, when the Scythian 
Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of Rome in the city of the 
Caesars, that the fierce children of Thor and Odin, after having 
swept across Northern Europe to the limit of the land, flung their 
fortunes to the stormy seas, and began to earn that terrible yet 
romantic renown with which history and saga have invested the 
deeds of the Scandinavian sea kings. The raven on their black 
banner was the dreaded symbol of havoc and devastation all along 
the sea coasts and islands of the Atlantic. In England, Saxon 
rule fell helplessly before the power of the new invaders, as wave 
after wave of the ruthless sea-ravagers dashed upon the sluggish 
masses of the heptarchy. 

After two hundred years of protracted agony and strife, Saxon 
sway was annihilated for ever, and Canute the Dane reigned in 

Meanwhile, the well-appointed fleets of Norsemen and Danes 
were prowling about the cost of Ireland, trying to obtain a footing 
on her yet unconquered soil. 

When these pagan pirates first appeared on our shores, Ireland 
had enjoyed a Christian civilization of four centuries. The light 
of the true faith had been there long before it shone upon rude 
Saxon England. The Irish of that early era excelled in music, 
poetry, and many arts. They had a literature, colleges for the 
learned, an organized and independent hierarchy, churches and 
abbeys, whose ruins still attest the sense of the beautiful, as well 
as the piety which must have existed in the founders. Their 
manuscripts, dating from this period, are older than those of any 
other nation of Northern Europe ; their music was distinguished 
by its pathetic beauty, and the ballads of their bards emulated in 
force of expression those of ancient Homer. At the time that 
the Scots were totally ignorant of letters, and that the princes of 
the heptarchy had to resort to Irish colleges for instruction in the 
liberal sciences, Ireland held the proud title of the "Island of 
Saints and Scholars ; " and learned men went forth from her 
shores to evangelize Europe. 

One Irish priest founded an abbey at Iona; another was the 
friend and counsellor of Charlemagne ; a third, of equal celebrity, 
founded monasteries both in France and England. The Irish of 
eleven centuries ago were the apostles of Europe ! 

The Norsemen, or u white strangers," as the Irish called them 


who swept like a hurricane over this early civilization, were 
fierce pagans, who respected neither God nor man. Not till three 
centuries after their arrival in Ireland were they converted to the 
Christian faith. They pillaged towns, burned churches, destroyed 
manuscripts of the past which no future can restore, plundered 
abbeys of all that learning, sanctity and civilization had accumu- 
lated of the sacred, the costly, and the beautiful, and gave the 
Irish nothing in return but lessons of their own barbarous ferocity. 
Then it was we hear how Irish mothers gave their infants food on 
the point of their father's sword, and at the baptism left the right 
arms of their babes unchristened that they might strike the more 
relentlessly. The Syrian and the Scythian, the children of the 
one Japhetian race, met at last in this ultima thule of Europe, 
after a three thousand years' divergence ; and even then, though 
they met with fierce animosity and inextinguishable hatred, yet 
lingerings of a far-off ancient identity in the language, the 
traditions, and the superstitions of each, could still be traced in 
these children of the one mighty father. 

Great consternation must have been in Ireland when the 
report spread that a fleet of sixty strange sail was in the Boyne, 
and that another of equal number was sailing up the Liffey. The 
foreigners leaped from their shins to conquest. "Daring brought 
success ; they sacked, burned, pillaged, murdered ; put a captive 
king to death in his own gyves at their ships ; drove the Irish 
before them from the ocean to the Shannon ; till, with roused 
spirit and gathered force, the confederate kings of Ireland in 
return drove back the white foreigners from the Shannon to the 
ocean. But they had gained a footing, and inroads, with plunder 
and devastation, never ceased from that time till the whole eastern 
sea-border of Ireland was their own. There they established 
themselves for four centuries, holding their first conquests, but 
never gaining more, until they were finally expelled by the 

To these red-haired pirates and marauders Dublin owes its 
existence as a city. The Ath-Cliath of the Irish, though of 
ancient fame, was but an aggregate of huts by the side of the 
Lifltey, which was crossed by a bridge of hurdles. The kings of 
Ireland never made it a royal residence, even after Tara was 
cursed by St. Rodan. Their palaces were in the interior of the 
island; but no doubt exists that AtftrCliath, the Eblana of 
Ptolemy, was a well-known port, the resort of merchantmen from 
the most ancient times. There were received the Spanish wines, 
the Syrian silks, the Indian gold, destined for the princes and 
nobles ; and from thence the costly merchandize was transported 
to the interior. 

But Dublin, with its fine plain watered by the Liffey, its noble 
bay, guarded by the sentinel hills, at once attracted the special 



notice of the bold Vikings. Their chiefs fixed their residence 
there, and assumed the title of Kings of Dublin, or Kings of the 
Dark Water, as the word may be translated. They erected a 
fortress on the very spot where the Norman Oaatle now rules the 
city, and, after their conversion, a cathedral, still standing amongst 
us, venerable with the memories of eight hundred years. 

Their descendants are with us to this day, and many families 
might trace back their lineage to the Danish leaders, whose names 
have been preserved in Irish history. Amongst sundry of " these 
great and valiant captains " are named Swanchean, Griffin, Albert 
Koe, Torbert Duff, Goslyn, Walter English, Awley, King of 
Denmark, from whom descend the Macaulays, made more illus- 
trious by the modern historian of their race than by the ancient 
pirate king. There are also named Randal O'Himer, Algot, 
Ottarduff Earl, Fyn Orossagh, Torkill, Fox Wasbagg, Trevan, 
Baron Robert, and. others ; names interesting, no doubt, to those 
who can claim them for their ancestry. 

The .Norsemen having walled and fortified Dublin, though 
including but a mile within its circumference — whereas now the 
city includes ten — proceeded to fortify Dunleary, now Kingstown, 
in order to secure free passage to their ships. Then, from their 
stronghold of Dublin, they made incessant inroads upon the broad 
rich plains of the interior. They spread all along Meath, which 
received its name from them, of " Fingall " (the land of the white 
stranger) ; they devastated as far north as Armagh, as far west as 
the Shannon ; Wexford, Waterford, and Limerick became half 
Danish cities. Everywhere their course was marked by barbaric 
spoliation. At one time it is noticed that they carried off a 
"great prey of women" — thus the Romans woo'd their Sabine 
brides ; indeed the accounts in the Irish annals of the shrines they 
burned, the royal graves they plundered, the treasures they 
pillaged, the ferocities they perpetrated, are as interminable as 
they are revolting. 

When beaten back by the Irish princes they crouched within 
their walled city of Dublin, till an opportunity offered for some 
fresh exercise of murderous cunning, some act of audacious rapine. 
Thus the contest was carried on for four centuries between the 
colonists and the nation; mutual hatred ever increasing; the 
Irish kings of Leinster still claiming the rights of feudal lords 
over the Danes ; the Danes resisting every effort made to dis- 
lodge them, though they were not unfrequently forced to pay 

Sometimes the Irish kings hired them as mercenaries to assist 
in the civil wars which raged perennially amongst them. Some- 
times there were intermarriages between the warring foes — the 
daughter of Brian Boro' wedded Sitric, King of the Danes of 
Dublin. Occasionally the Irish kings got possession of Dublin, 

Dim AMClfiNT OaKTAL. 309 

and ravaged and pillaged in return. Once the Danes were driven 
forth completely from the city, and forced to take refuge upon 
"Ireland's Eye," the lone sea rock, since made memorable by 
a tragic history, Malachy, King of Meath, besieged Dublin 
for three days and three nights, burned the fortress, and carried 
off the Danish regalia; hence the allusion in Moore's song to 
"The Collar of Gold which he won from the proud invader." 
But the most terrible defeat the Danes ever sustained was at 
Clontarf, when ten thousand men in coats of mail were opposed 
to King Brian; but "the ten thousand in armour were cut 
in pieces, and three thousand warriors slain besides." Even the 
Irish children fought against the invader. iThe grandchild of 
King Brian, a youth of fifteen, was found dead with his hand fast 
bound in the hair of a Dane's head, whom the child had dragged 
to the sea.* 

Still the Danish colony was not uprooted, though after this 
defeat they grew more humble, kept within their city of Dublin, 
and paid tribute to the kings of Leinster, and to the paramount 
monarch of Ireland. 

Up to this period, therefore, we see that the Irish race had no 
relationship whatever with their capital city ; they never saw 
the inside of their metropolis unless they were carried there as 
prisoners, or that they entered with fire and sword ; and, stranger 
still, during the many centuries of the existence of Dublin as a 
city, up to the present time, the Irish race have never ruled there, 
or held possession of the fortress of their capital. 

But the time of judgment upon the Danes was approaching, 
though it did not come by Irish hands. As the Saxons in Eng- 
land fell before the Danes, so the Danes had fallen before the 
Normans. The Normans, a Scythian race likewise, but more 
beautiful, more brave, more chivalrous, courtly, and polished, 
than any race that had preceded them, came triumphant from 
Italy and France to achieve the conquest of England, which 
yielded almost without a struggle. One great battle, and then no 
more. William the Norman, or rather the Scythian Frenchman, 
ascends the throne of Alfred. Dane and Saxon fall helplesslv be- 
neath his feet, and his tyrannies, his robberies, his confiscations, 
are submitted to by the subjugated nation without an effort at 

His handful of Norman nobles seized upon the lands, the wealth, 
the honours, the estates of the kingdom, and retain them to this 
hour. And justly ; so noble a race as the Norman knights were 

* Hogan, the greatl historical sculptor of Ireland, has illustrated this era 
of Irish history by a fine group, heroic and poetical in idea, as well as 
beautiful in execution, like every work that proceeded from the gifted mind 
of this distinguished artist. 


made for masters. The Saxons sank at once to the level of serfs, 
of traders and menials, from which they have never risen, leaving 
England divided into a Norman aristocracy who have all the 
land, and a Saxon people who have all the toil ; crushed by 
the final conquerors, they sank to he the sediment of the 

The Irish had a different destiny ; for fLye hundred years they 
fought the battle for independence with the Normans, nor did 
their chiefs sink to be the pariahs of the kingdom, as the Saxons 
of England, but retain their princely pretensions to this day. 
The O'Connors, the O'Briens, O'Neils, Kavanaghs, O'Donnels, 
yield to no family in Europe in pride of blood and ancestral 
honours ; while, by intermarriage with the Norman lords, a race 
was founded of Norman Irish — perhaps the finest specimens of 
aristocracy that Europe produced — the Geraldines at their head, 
loving Ireland, and of whom Ireland may be proud. 

A hundred years passed by after the Norman conquest of Eng- 
land. Three kings of the Norman race had reigned and died, and 
still the conquest of Ireland was unattempted ; no Norman knight 
had set foot on Irish soil. 

The story of their coming begins with just such a domestic 
drama as Homer had turned into an epic two thousand years 
before. A fair and faithless woman, a king's daughter, fled from 
her husband to the arms of a lover. All Ireland is outraged 
at the act. The kings assemble in conclave and denounce ven- 
geance upon the crowned seducer, Dermot, King of Leinster. 

He leagues with the Danes of Dublin, the abhorred of his 
countrymen, but the only allies he can find in his great need. 
A battle is fought in which Dermot is defeated, his castle of 
Ferns is burned, his kingdom is taken from him, and he himself 
is solemnly deposed by the confederate kings, and banished be- 
yond the seas. Roderick, King of all Ireland, is the inexorable 
and supreme judge. He restores the guilty wife to her husband ; 
but the husband disdains to receive her, and she retires to a 
convent, where she expiates her crime and the ruin of her country 
by forty years of penance. The only records of her afterwards 
are of her good deeds. She built a nunnery at Olonmacnoise ; 
she gave a chalice of gold to the altar of Mary, and cloth for nine 
altars of the Church ; and then Dervorgil, the Helen of our Iliad, 
is heard of no more. 

Dermot, her lover, went to England, seeking aid to recover his 
kingdom of Leinster. In a year he returns with a band of 
Welsh mercenaries, and marches to Dublin,- but is again de- 
feated by the confederate kings, and obliged to pay a hundred 
ounces of gold to O'Rourke of Breflny, " for the wrong he had 
done him respecting his wife," and to give up as hostage to King 
Roderick his only son, But while parleying with the Irish 


kings, Dermot was secretly soliciting English aid, and not un- 

Memorable was the year 1170, when the renowned Strongbow, 
Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, and his Norman knights, 
landed at Wexford to aid the banished king ; and when Dermot 
welcomed his illustrious allies, little he thought that by his hand 

** The emerald gem of the Western world, 
Was set in the crown of a stranger." 

The compact with the foreigners was sealed with his son's 
blood. No sooner did King Koderick hear of the Norman land- 
ing, than he ordered the royal Kavanagh, the hostage of King 
Dermot, to be put to death ; and henceforth a doom seemed to be 
on the male heirs of the line of Dermot, as fatal as that which 
rested upon the house of Atrides. 

Dermot had an only daughter remaining. He offered her in 
marriage to the Earl of Pembroke, with the whole kingdom of 
Leinster for her dowry, so as he would help him to his re- 
venge. After a great battle against the Danes, in which the 
Normans were victorious, the marriage was celebrated at Water- 

" Sad Eva gazed 
All round that bridal field of blood, amazed ; 
Spoused to new fortunes."* 

No record remains to us of the beauty of the bride, or in 
what language the Norman knight wooed her to his arras ; this 
only we know, that Eva, Queen of Leinster in her own right, and 
Countess of Pembroke by marriage, can number amongst her de- 
scendants the present Queen of England. Of the bridegroom, 
Cambrensis tells us that he was "ruddy, freckle-faced, grey-eyed, 
his face feminine, his voice small, his neck little, yet of a high 
stature, ready with good words and gentle speeches." 
^ The same authority describes Dermot from personal observa- 
tion — " A tall man of stature, of a large and great body, a valiant 
and bold warrior, and by reason of his continued hallooing his 
voice was hoarse. He rather chose to be feared than loved. 
Bough and generous, hateful unto strangers, he would be against 
all men and all men against him." 

From Waterford to Dublin was a progress of victory to Der- 
mot and his allies, for they marched only through the Danish 
settlements of which Dermot was feudal lord. At Dublin King 
Eoderick opposed them with an army. Three days the battle 
raged; then the Danes of Dublin, fearing Dermot's wrath, 

*The Irish Celt to the Irish Norman, from " Poems," by Aubrey de 


opened their gates, and offered him gold and silver in abund- 
ance if he would spare their lives ; but, heedless of treaties, the 
Norman knights rushed in, slew the Danes in their own fortress, 
drove the rest to the sea ; and thus ended the Danish dynasty 
of four centuries. Never more did they own a foot of ground 
throughout the length or "breadth of the land. An Irish army, 
aided by Norman skill, had effected their complete extinction. 
The Kingdom of Leinster was regained for Dermot, and he and 
his allies placed a garrison in Dublin. This was the last triumph 
of the ancient race. The kingdom was lost even at the moment 
it seemed regained. That handful of Scythian warriors, scarcely 
visible amid Dermot's great Irish army, are destined to place the 
yoke upon the neck of ancient Ireland. 

^ The brave Roderick gathered together another army, and, with 
sixty thousand men, laid siege to Dublin, O'Rourke of Breffny 
aiding him. They were repulsed. O'Rourke was taken prisoner, 
and hanged with his head downwards, then beheaded and the 
head stuck on one of the centre gates of the castle, <( a spectacle 
of intense pity to the Irish ; " and Roderick retired into Con- 
naught to recruit more forces. 

There is something heroic and self-devoted in the efforts which, 
for eighteen years, were made by Roderick against the Norman 
power. Brave, learned, just, and enlightened beyond his age, he 
alone of all the Irish princes saw the direful tendency of the 
Norman inroad. All the records of his reign prove that he was 
a wise and powerful monarch. He had a fleet on the Shannon, 
the like of which had never been seen before. He built a royal 
residence in Oonnaught, the ruins of which are still existing to 
attest its former magnificence, so far beyond all structures of the 
period, that it was known in Ireland as the beautiful house. He 
founded a chair of literature at Armagh, and left an endowment 
in perpetuity, to maintain it for the instruction of the youth of 
Ireland and Scotland. A great warrior, and a fervent patriot, his 
first effort, when he obtained the crown, was to humble the Danish 
power. Dublin was forced to pay him tribute, and he was in- 
augurated there with a grandeur and luxury unknown before. 
When Dermot outraged morality, he deposed and banished him. 
When Dermot further sinned, and traitorously brought over the 
foreigner, Roderick, with stern justice, avenged the father's treason 
by the son's life. His own son, the heir of his kingdom, leagued 
with the Normans, and was found fighting in their ranks. 
Roderick, like a second Brutus, unpitying, yet heroically just, 
when the youth was brought a prisoner before him, himself 
ordered his eyes to be put out. His second son also turned 
traitor, and covenanted with the Normans to deprive his father of 
the kingdom. Then Roderick, surrounded by foreign foes and 
domestic treachery, quitted Connaught, and went through the 


provinces of Ireland, seeking to stir up a spirit as heroic as his 
own in the hearts of his countrymen. Soon after his unworthy 
son was killed in some broil, and Roderick resumed the kingly 
functions ; but while all the other Irish princes took the oath of 
fealty to King Henry, he kept aloof beyond the Shannon, equally 
disdaining treachery or submission. His last son, the only one 
worthy of him, being defeated in a battle by the Normans, slew 
himself in despair. 

The male line of his house was now extinct ; the independence 
of his country was threatened ; Norman power was growing strong 
in the land, and his continued efforts for eighteen years to arouse 
the Irish princes to a sense of their danger was unavailing. 
Wearied, disgusted, heartbroken, it may be, he voluntarily laid 
down the sceptre and the crown, and retired to the monastery of 
Cong, where he became a monk, and thus, in penance and seclusion, 
passed ten years — the weary ending of a fated life. 

He died there, twenty-eight years after the Norman invasion, 
4t after exemplary penance, victorious over the world and the 
devil ; " and the chroniclers record his title upon his grave where 
he is laid — 

" Koderiek O'Connor, 
King of all Ireland, both of the Irish and English. M 

Seven centuries have nassed since then, yet even now, which of 
us could enter the beautiful ruins of that ancient abbey, wander 
through the arched aisles tapestried by ivy, or tread the lonely 
silent chapel, once vocal with prayer and praise, without sad 
thoughts of sympathy for the fate of the last monarch of Ireland, 
and perchance grave thoughts likewise over the destiny of a people 
who, on that grave of native monarchy, independence, and 
nationality, have as yet written no Resurg-am. 

Exactly ten months after the Normans took possession of Dublin, 
King Dermot, " by whom a trembling sod was made of all Ireland, 
died of an insufferable and unknown disease — for he became putrid 
while living — without a will, without penance, without the body 
of Christ, without unction, as his evil deeds deserved." 

Immediately the Earl of Pembroke assumed the title of King of 
Leinster in right of his wife Eva. Whereupon Henry of England 
grew alarmed at the independence of his nobility, and hastened 
over to assert his claims as lord paramount. To his remonstrances 
Strongbow answered, " What I won was with the sword ; what 
was given me I give you." An agreement was then made by which 
Strongbow retained Dublin, while Henry appointed what nobles 
he chose over the other provinces of Leinster. 

When the first Norman monarch landed amongst us, the 
memorable 18th day of October, 1172, no resistance was offered by 
any party j no battle was fought. The Irish chiefs were so elated 


at the Danish overthrow, that they even volunteered oaths of 
fealty to the foreign prince who had been in some sort their 
deliverer. Calmly, as m a state pageant, Henry proceeded from 
"Wexford to Dublin ; his route lay only through the conquered 
Danish possessions, now the property of the Countess Eva ; there 
was no fear therefore of opposition. On reaching the city, " he 
caused a royal palace to be built, very curiously contrived of 
smooth wattels, after the manner of the country, and there, with 
the kings and princes of Ireland, did keep Christmas with great 
solemnity," on the very spot where now stands St. Andrew's 

King Henry remained six months in Ireland, the longest period 
which a foreign monarch has ever passed amongst us, and during 
that time he never thought of fighting a battle with the Irish, As 
yet, the whole result of Norman victories was the downfall of the 
Danes, in which object the Irish had gladly assisted. Strongbow 
and Eva reigned peacefully in our capital. Henry placed 
governors over the other Danish cities, and in order that Dublin, 
from which the Danes had been expelled, might be repeopled, he 
made a present of our fair city to the good people of Bristol. 

Accordingly a colony from that town, famed for deficiency in 
personal attractions, came over and settled here; but thirty years 
after, the Irish, whose instincts of beauty were no doubt offended 
by the rising generation of Bristolians, poured down from the 
Wieklow hills upon the ill-favoured colony, and made a quick 
ending of them by a general massacre. 

In a fit of penitence, also, for the murdered A Becket, Henry 
founded the Abbey of Thomas Court, from which Thomas Street 
derives its name, and then the excommunicated king quitted 
Ireland, leaving it unchanged, save that Henry the Norman held 
the possessions of Torkil the Dane, and Dublin, from a Danish, had 
become a Norman city. Five hundred years more had to elapse 
before English jurisdiction extended beyond the ancient Danish 
pale, and a Cromwell or a William of Nassau was needed for the 
final conquest of Ireland, as well as for the redemption of England. 

Nothing can be more absurd than to talk of a Saxon conquest of 
Ireland. The Saxons, an ignorant, rude, inferior race, could not 
even maintain their ascendency in England. They fell before the 
superior power, intelligence, and ability of the Norman, and the 
provinces of Ireland that fell to the first Norman nobles were in 
reality not gained by battles, but by the intermarriage of Norman 
lords with the daughters of Irish kings. Hence it was that in right 
of their wives the Norman nobles early set up claims independent 
of the English crown, and the hereditary rights, being transmitted 
through each generation, were perpetually tempting the Norman 
aristocracy into rebellion. English supremacy was as uneasily 
borne by the De Lacys, the Geraldines, the Butlers, and others 


of the Norman stock, as by the O'Connors, the Kavanaghs, the 
O'Neils, or the O'Briens. The great Richard de Burgho married 
Odierna, grand-daughter of Oathal Crovdearg, king of Oonnaught. 
Hence the De Burghos assumed the title of Lords of Connaught. 

King Roderick, as we have said, left no male issue. His 
kingdom descended to his daughter, who married the Norman 
knight, Hugo de Lacy. Immediately De Lacy set up a claim as 
independent prince in right of his wife, assumed legal state, took 
the title of King of Meath, and appeared in public with a golden 
crown upon his head, and so early as twenty-five years after the 
invasion, John de Oourcy and the son of this De Lacy marched 
against the English of Leinster and Munster. Many a romance 
could be woven of the destiny and vicissitudes of this great race, 
half Irish, half Norman ; independent princes by the one side, and 
English subjects by the other. 

The great Earl of Pembroke lived but a few years after his 
capture of Dublin. The Irish legends say that St. Bridget killed 
him. However, he and Eva had no male heir, and only one 
daughter, named Isabel, after the Earl's mother, who was also 
aunt to the reigning king of Scotland. 

This young girl was sole heiress of Leinster and of her father's 
"Welsh estates. Richard Cceur de Lion took her to his court at 
London, and she became his ward. In due time she married 
William Marshall, called the great Earl, hereditary Earl Marshal 
of England, and Earl of Pembroke and Leinster, in right of his 
wife. High in office and favour with the king, we read that he 
carried the sword of state before Richard at his coronation, and as 
a monument of his piety, he left Tintern Abbey, in the County 
Wexford, erected by him on his wife's property. 

Isabel and Earl William had five sons and &ye daughters. 
The five sons, William, Walter, Gilbert, Anselm, and Richard 
(Isabel called no son of hers after the royal^ traitor Dermot, 
her grandfather) inherited the title in succession, and all died 
childless. We have said there was a doom upon Dermot's male 

The inheritance was then divided between the ^.Ye daughters, 
each of whom received a province for a dower, Carlow, Kilkenny, 
the Queen's County, Wexford, and Kildare were the five portions. 
Maud, the eldest, married the Earl of Norfolk, who became Earl 
Marshal of England in right of his wife. 

Isabel, the second, married the Earl of Gloucester, and her 
granddaughter, Isabel also, was mother to the great Robert 
Bruce, who was therefore great-great-great-grandson of Eva and 
Strongbow. Eva, the third daughter, married the Lord de Breos, 
and from a daughter of hers, named Eva likewise, descended 
Edward the Fourth, King of England, through whose grand- 
daughter Margaret Queen of Scotland, daughter of Henry the 


Seventh, the present reigning family of England claim their right 
to the throne. Through two lines, therefore, our Most Gracious 
Majesty can trace back her pedigree to Eva the Irish princess. 

Joan, whose portions were Wexford, married Lord Valentia, 
half-brother to King Henry the Third, and the male line failing, 
the inheritance was divided between two daughters, from one of 
whom the Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury, inherit their Wexford 

From Sybil, the youngest, who married the Earl of Ferrars and 
Derby, descended the Earls of Winchester, the Lords Mortimer, 
and other noble races. She had seven daughters, who all married 
Norman lords, so that scarcely a family could be named of the 
high and ancient English nobility, whose wealth has not been 
increased by the estates of Eva, the daughter of King Dermot ; 
and thus it came to pass that Leinster fell by marriage and in- 
heritance, not by conquest, into the possession of the great 
Norman families, who, of course, acknowledged the King of 
England as their sovereign ; and the English monarchs assumed 
thenceforth the title of Lords of Ireland — a claim which they 
afterwards enforced over the whole country. 

The destiny of the descendants of De Lacy and King Roderick's 
daughter was equally remarkable. They had two sons, Hugh and 
Walter, who, before they were twenty-one, threw off English 
allegiance, and set up as independent princes. To avoid the wrath 
of King John they fled to France, and took refuge in an abbey, 
where, disguised as menials, the two young noblemen found em- 
ployment in garden-digging, preparing mud and bricks, and 
similar work. By some chance the abbot suspected the disguise, 
and finally detected the princes in the supposed peasants. He 
used his knowledge of their secret to obtain their pardon from King 
John, and Hugh De Lacy was created Earl of Ulster. He left an 
only daughter, his sole heir. She married a De Burgho, who, in 
right of his wife, became Earl of Ulster, and from them descended 
Ellen, wife of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland. It is singular 
that the mother of Robert Bruce should have been descended 
from Eva, and his wife from King Roderick's daughter. The 
granddaughter of Robert Bruce, the Princess Margery, married 
the Lord High Steward of Scotland, and through her the Stuarts 
claimed the crown. From thence it is easy to trace how the 
royal blood of the three kingdoms meet in the reigning family of 
England. Another descendant of the Earls of Ulster (an only 
daughter likewise) married Lionel, Duke of Clarence, son of 
Edward the Third, who, in the right of his wife, became Earl of 
Ulster and Lord of Oonnaught, and these titles finally merged in 
the English crown in the person of Edward the Fourth. From 
all these genealogies one fact may be clearly deduced, that the 
present representative of the royal Irish races of Eva and Roderick, 


and the lineal heiress of their rights, is Her Majesty Queen 

The proud and handsome race of Norman Irish, that claimed 
descent from these intermarriages, were the nobles, of whom it 
was said, "They were more Irish than the Irish themselves." 
The disposition to become independent of England was constantly 
manifested in them. They publicly asserted their rights, re- 
nounced the English dress and language, and adopted Irish names. 
Thus Sir Ulick Burke, ancestor of Lord Clanricarde, became 
MacWilliam Oughter (or upper), and Sir Edmond Albanagh, 
progenitor of the Earl of Mayo, became MacWilliam Eighter (or 
lower). Richard, son of the Earl of Norfolk, and grandson of 
Eva, set up a claim to be independent King of Leinster, and was 
slain by the English. "We have seen that Walter and Hugh De 
Lacy, grandsons of Roderick, were in open rebellion against King 
John. A hundred years later, two of the same race, named 
Walter and Hugh likewise, were proclaimed traitors for aiding 
the army of Robert Bruce, who claimed the crown of Ireland for 
his brother Edward, and the two De Lacys were found dead by 
the side of Edward Bruce at the great battle of Dundalk, where 
the Scotch forces were overthrown. 

Once, even the Geraldines and the Fitzmaurices took prisoner 
the Justiciary of Dublin, as the Lord-Lieutenant of that day was 
named. Meanwhile the Irish princes of the West retained their 
independence ; sometimes at feud, sometimes in amity with the 
English of the Eastern coast. We read that " the English of 
Dublin invited Hugh, King of Connaught, to a conference, and 
began to deal treacherously with him ; but William Mareschall, 
his friend, coming in with his forces, rescued him, in despite of 
the English, from the middle of the Court, and escorted him to 
Connaught." Both races were equally averse to the domination 
of the English crown. The Geraldines and Butlers, the De 
Burghos and De Lacys, were as intractable as the O'Connors of 
Connaught, or the O'Neils of Tyrone ; even more so. The Great 
O'Neil submitted to Elizabeth ; but two hundred years later the 
Geraldines had still to add the name of another martyr for 
liberty to the roll of their illustrious ancestors. 

Frequently the Normans fought amongst themselves as fiercely 
as if opposed to the Irish. The Earl of Ulster, a De Burgho 
the same who is recorded to have given the first entertainment 
at Dublin Castle, took his kinsman, Walter Burke, prisoner, and 
had him starved to death in his own castle ; a tragedy which 
might have been made as memorable as that of Ugolino in the 
Torre del Fame, had there been a Dante in Ireland to record it. 
For this act the kinsmen of Walter Burke murdered the Earl of 
Ulster on the Lord's Day, as he was kneeling at his prayers, and 
cleft his head in two with a sword. 


It was unfortunate for Ireland that her Irish princes were so 
unconquerable, and that her Norman lords should have caught 
the infection of resistance to the crown. Eight hundred years 
ago the Saxons of England peaceably settled down with the 
Normans to form one nation, with interests and objects identical. 

The Norman conquerors, better fitted, perhaps, for rulers than 
any other existing in Europe, established at once a strong, 
vigorous government in England. The Kings, as individuals, 
may have been weak or tyrannous, but there was a unity of 
purpose, a sense of justice, and a vigour of will existing in the 
ruling class that brought the ruled speedily under the order and 
discipline of laws. Not a century and a half had elapsed from 
the Conquest before Magna Oharta and representation by Par- 
liament secured the liberty of the people against the caprices of 
kings ; and the Norman temperament which united in a singular 
degree the instincts of loyalty with the love of freedom, became 
the hereditary national characteristic of Englishmen. But 
Ireland never, at any time, comprehended the word nationality. 
From of old it was broken up into fragments, ruled by chiefs 
whose principal aim was mutual destruction. There was no 
unity, therefore no strength. 

If, at the time of the Norman invasion, a king of the race had 
settled here as in England, the Irish would gradually have 
become a nation under one ruler, in place of being an .aggregate 
of warring tribes ; but for want of this chief corner-stone the 
Norman nobles themselves became but isolated chiefs — new petty 
kings added to the old — each for himself, none for the country. 
It was contrary to all natural laws that the proud Irish princes, 
with the traditions of their race going back two thousand years, 
should at once serve with love and loyalty a foreign king whose 
face they never saw and from whom they derived no benefits. 
And thus it was that five hundred years elapsed, from Henry 
Plantagenet to "William of Nassau, before Ireland was finally 
adjusted in her subordinate position to the English crown. 

Meanwhile the Danish Dublin was fast rising into importance 
as the Norman city, the capital of the English pale. Within 
that circle the English laws, language, manners and religion were 
implicitly adopted; without, there was a fierce, warlike, powerful 
people, the ancient lords of the soil, but with them the citizens of 
Dublin had no affinity; and the object of the English rulers 
was to keep the two races as distinct as possible. Amongst other 
enactments tending to obliterate any feeling of kindred which 
might exist, the inhabitants of the pale were ordered to adopt 
English surnames, derived from everything which by the second 
commandment we are forbidden to worship. Hence arose the 
tribes of fishes— cod, haddock, plaice, salmon, gurnet, gudgeon, 
&c. ; and of birds — crow, sparrow, swan, pigeon ; and of trades, 


as carpenter, smith, baker, mason j and of colours — the blacks, 
whites, browns, and greens, which in Dublin so copiously 
replace the grand old historic names of the provinces. Deter- 
mined also on annihilating the picturesque, at least in the in- 
dividual, lest the outward symbol might be taken for an inward 
affinity, the long flowing hair and graceful mantle, after the Irish 
fashion, were forbidden to be worn within the pale. 

Neither was the Irish language tolerated within the English 
jurisdiction, for which Holingshed gives good reason, after this 
fashion — "And here," he says, "some snappish carpers will 
snuffingly snib me for debasing* the Irish language, but my short 
discourse tendeth only to this drift, that it is not expedient that 
the Irish tongue should be so universally gagled in the English 
pale ; for where the country is subdued, there the inhabitants 
should be ruled by the same laws that the conqueror is governed, 
wear the same fashion of attire with which the victor is vested, 
and speak the same language which the victor parleth ; and if 
any of these lack, doubtless the conquest limpeth." The Eng- 
lish tongue, however, seems to have been held in utter contempt 
and scorn by the Irish allies of the pale. After the submission 
of the Great O'Neil, the last who held the title of king in Ireland, 
which he exchanged for that of Earl of Tyrone, as a mark and 
seal of his allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, "One demanded 
merrilie," says Holingshed, " why O'Neil would not frame him- 
self to speak English ? ' What/ quoth the other in a rage, 
4 thinkest thou it standeth with O'Neil his honour to writhe his 
mouth in clattering English/ " 

As regarded religion, the English commanded the most implicit 
obedience to the Pope, under as strict and severe penalties as, five 
hundred years later, they enacted against those who acknowledged 
his authority. One provision of the ancient oath imposed upon 
the subjugated Irish was — " You acknowledge yourself to be of 
the Mother Church of Rome, now professed by all Christians," 
But, that the Irish of that era little heeded papal or priestly 
ordinances may be inferred from the fact that, during the wars of 
Edward Bruce, the English complained that their Irish auxiliaries 
were more exhausting than the Scots, as they ate meat all the 
time of Lent ; and it is recorded, that in 1133, when the Leinster 
Irish rose against the English, " they set fire to everything, even 
the churches, and burned the church of Dunleary, with eighty 
persons in it, and even when the priest in his sacred vestments, 
and carrying the Host in his hands, tried to get out, they drove 
him back with their spears and burned him. For this they were 
excommunicated by a Papal Bull, and the country was put under 
an interdict. But they despised these things, and again wasted 
the county of Wexford."* 

* Grace's Annals. Rev. R. Butler's translation. 


The energetic and organizing spirit of the Normans was, how- 
ever, evidenced by better deeds than those we have named. 
Courts of law were established in Dublin, a mayor and corpora- 
tion instituted, and Parliaments were convened after the English 
fashion. Within fifty years after the Norman settlement, the 
lordly pile of Dublin Castle rose upon the site of the old Danish 
fortress, built, indeed, to overawe the Irish, as William the Con- 
queror built the Tower of London to overawe the English ; yet, 
by Norman hands, the first regal residence was given to our 
metropolis. St. Patrick's Cathedral was next erected by the 
colonists, and gradually our fair city rose into beauty and impor- 
tance through Norman wealth and Norman skill. From hence- 
forth, the whole interest of Irish history centres in the chief city 
of the pale, and the history of Dublin becomes the history of 
English rule in Ireland. For centuries its position was that of a 
besieged city in the midst of a hostile country ; for centuries it 
resisted the whole force of the native race ; and finally triumph- 
antly crushed, annihilated, and revenged every effort made for 
Irish independence. 

In truth, Dublin is a right royal city, and never fails in rever- 
ential respect towards her English mother. 

Many great names are associated with the attempt to write a 
history of Dublin. The work in all ages was laborious; there 
were no printed books to consult, and the records of Ireland, as 
Hooker complains three hundred years ago, " were verie slenderlie 
and disorderlie kept/' Whitelaw's work, though it employed two 
editors ten hours a day for ten years, yet goes no farther than a 
description of the public buildings; but the object of Mr. 
Gilbert's history is distinct from all that precedes it. It is 
from the decaying streets and houses that he disentombs great 
memories, great fragments of past life. It is not a mere record 
of Ionic pillars, Corinthian capitals, or Doric pediments he gives 
us. Whitelaw has supplied whole catalogues of these ; but 
records of the human life, that has throbbed through the ancient 
dwellings of our city century after century ; of the vicissitudes of 
families, to be read in their ruined mansions ; of the vast political 
events which in some room, in some house, on some particular 
night, branded the stigmata deeper on the country; or the 
tragedies of great hopes crushed, young blood shed, victims hope- 
lessly sacrificed, which have made some street, some house, some 
chamber, for ever sacred. 

The labours of such an undertaking are manifest; yet none 
can appreciate them fully who has not known what it is to spend 
days, weeks, months buried in decaying parchments, endless pipe- 
rolls, worm-eaten records, dusty deeds and leases, excavating 
some fact, or searching for some link necessary for the completion 
of a tale, or the elucidation of a truth. 


Mr. Gilbert tells us that twelve hundred statutes and enact- 
ments of the Anglo-Irish Parliament still remain unpublished. 
From these and such-like decayed and decaying manuscripts, 
ancient records which have become almost hieroglyphics to the 
present age, he has gathered the life-history of an ancient city ; 
he has made the stones to speak, and evoked the shadows of the 
past to fill up the outline of a great historical picture. 

Fifty, even twenty years hence, the production of such a work 
would be impossible; the ancient records will probably have 
perished ; the ancient houses, round which the curious may yet 
gather, will have fallen to the ground ; and the ancient race, who 
cherished in their hearts the legends of the past with the fidelity 
of priests, and the fervour of bards, will have almost passed away. 

Dublin is fortunate, therefore, in finding a historian endowed 
with the ability, the energetic literary industry, the untiring 
spirit of research, and the vast amount of antiquarian knowledge 
necessary for the production of so valuable a work, before records 
perish, mansions fall, or races vanish. 

In a history illustrated by human lives and deeds, and localized 
in the weird old streets, once the proudest, now the meanest of our 
city, many a family willfind an ancestral shadow starting suddenly 
to light, trailing long memories with it of departed fashion, gran- 
deur, and magnificence. 

Few amongst us who tread the Dublin of the present in all its 
beauty, think of the Dublin of the past in all its contrasted insig- 
nificance. True, the eternal features are the same ; the landscape 
setting of the city is coeval with creation. Tyrian, Dane, and 
Norman have looked as we look, and with hearts as responsive to 
Nature's loveliness, upon the emerald plains, the winding rivers, 
the hills draper ied m violet and gold, the mountain gorges, 
thunder-riven, half veiled by the foam of the waterfall, and the 
eternal ocean encircling all ; scenes where God said a city should 
arise, and the mountain and the ocean are still, as of old, the mag- 
nificent heritage of beauty conferred on our metropolis. 

But the early races, whether from southern sea or northern 
plain, did little to aid the beauty of nature with the products of 
human intellect. Dublin, under the Danish rule, consisted only 
of a fortress, a church, and one rude street. Under the rule of 
the Normans, those great civilizers of the western world, those 
grand energetic organizers, temple and tower builders, it rose 
gradually into a beautiful capital, the chief city of Ireland, the 
second city of the empire. At first the rudamental metropolis 
gathered round the castle, as nebulae round a central sun, and 
from this point it radiated westward and southward ; the O'Briens 
on the south, the O'Connors on the west, the O'Neils on the north, 
perpetually hovering on the borders, but never able to regain the 
city, never able to dislodge the brave Norman garrison who had 



planted their banners on the castle walls. In that castle, during 
the seven hundred years of its existence, no Irishman of the old 
race has ever held rule for a single hour. 

And what a history it has of tragedies and splendours ; crowned 
and discrowned monarchs flit across the scene, and tragic destinies, 
likewise, may be recorded of many a viceroy I Piers Gravestone, 
Lord-Lieutenant of King Edward, murdered ; Roger Mortimer — 
" The Gentle Mortimer " — hanged at Tyburn ; the Lord Deputy 
of King Richard II. murdered by the O'Briens ; whereupon the 
King came over to avenge his death, just a year before he him- 
self was so ruthlessly murdered at Pomfret Castle. Two viceroys 
died of the plague; how many more were plagued to death, 
history leaves unrecorded ; one was beheaded at Drogheda ; three 
were beheaded on Tower Hill. Amongst the names of illustrious 
Dublin rulers may be found those of Prince John, the boy Deputy 
of thirteen ; Prince Lionel, son of Edward III., who claimed Clare 
in right of his wife, and assumed the title of Clarence from having 
conquered it from the O'Briens. 

The great Oliver Cromwell was the Lord-Lieutenant of the 
Parliament, and he in turn appointed his son Henry to succeed 
him. Dire are the memories connected with Cromwell's reign 
here, both to his own party and to Ireland. Ireton died of the 
plague after the siege of Limerick ; General Jones died of the 
plague after the surrender of Dungarvon ; a thousand of Crom- 
well's men died of the plague before Waterford. The climate, 
in its effect upon English constitutions, seems to be the great 
Nemesis of Ireland's wrongs. 

Strange scenes, dark, secret, and cruel, have been enacted in 
that gloomy pile. No one has told the full story yet. It will be 
a Batcliffe romance of dungeons and treacheries, of swift death 
or slow murder. God and St. Mary were invoked in vain for the 
luckless Irish prince or chieftain that was caught in that Norman 
stronghold ; but that was in the old time — long, long ago. Now 
the castle courts are crowded only with loyal and courtly crowds, 
gathered to pay homage to the illustrious successor of a hundred 

The strangest scene, perhaps, in the annals of vice-royalty, was 
when Lord Thomas Eitzgerald (Silken Thomas), son of the Earl 
of Kildare, and Lord-Lieutenant in his father's absence, took up 
arms for Irish independence. He rode through the city with 
seven score horsemen, in shirts of mail and silken fringes on their 
head-pieces (hence the name Silken Thomas), to St. Mary's Abbey, 
and there entering the council chamber, he flung down the sword 
of state upon the table, and bade defiance to the king and his 
ministers; then hastening to raise an army, he laid siege to 
Dublin Castle, but with no success. Silken Thomas and his five 
uncles were sent to London, and there executed ; and sixteen 


Fitzgeralds were hanged and quartered at Dublin. By a singular 
fatality, no plot laid against Dublin Oastle ever succeeded ; though 
to obtain possession of this foreign fortress was the paramount 
wish of all Irish rebel leaders. This was the object with Lord 
Maguire and his Catholics, with Lord Edward Fitzgerald and 
his republicans, with Emmet and his enthusiasts, with Smith 
O'Brien and his nationalists — yet they all failed. Once only, 
during seven centuries, the green flag waved over Dublin Oastle, 
with the motto — " Now ob Neveb ! Now and fob Eveb ! " It 
was when Tyrconnel held it for King James. 

In the ancient stormy times of Norman rule, the nobility natu- 
rally gathered round the Oastle. Skinner's Row was the " May 
Fair " of mediaeval Dublin. Hoey's Court, Oastle Street, Cook 
Street, Fishamble Street, Bridge Street, Werburgh Street, High 
Street, Golden Lane, Back Lane, &c, were the fashionable locali- 
ties inhabited by lords and bishops, chancellors and judges ; and 
Thomas Street was the grand prado where viceregal pomp and 
Norman pride were oftenest exhibited. A hundred years ago the 
Lord-Lieutenant was entertained at a ball by Lord Mountjoy in 
Back Lane. Skinner's How was distinguished by the residence of 
the great race of the Geraldines, called " Oarbrie House," which 
from them passed to the Dukes of Ormond, and after many vicis- 
situdes, the palace from which Silken Thomas went forth to give 
his young life for Irish independence, fell into decay, " and on its 
site now stand the houses known as 6, 7, and 8 Christ Church 
Place, in the lower stories of which still exist some of the old oak 
beams of the Oarbrie House." 

In Skinner's Row also, two hundred years ago/dwelt Sir Robert 
Dixon, Mayor of Dublin, who was knighted at his own house 
there by the Lord-Lieutenant, the afterwards unfortunate Straf- 
ford. The house has fallen to ruins, but the vast property con- 
ferred on him by Charles I. for his good services, has descended 
to the family of Sir Kildare Burrowes, of Kildare. In those bril- 
liant days of Skinner's Row, it was but seventeen feet wide, and 
the pathways but one foot broad. All its glories have vanished 
now ; even the name no longer exists ; yet the remains of resi- 
dences once inhabited by the magnificent Geraldines and Butlers 
can still be traced. 

Every stone throughout this ancient quarter of Dublin has a 
history. In Cook Street Lord Maguire was arrested at midnight, 
under circumstances very similar to the capture of Lord Edward 
Fitzgerald ; and " to commemorate this capture in the parish it 
was the annual custom, down to the year 1829, to toll the bells of 
St. Andrew's Church at twelve o'clock on the night of the 22nd 
of October." 

In Bridge Street great lords and peers of the realm resided. 
The Marquis of Antrim, the Duke of Marlborough's father ; West- 



enra, the Dutch merchant who founded the family afterwards 
ennobled, and others. It was the Merrion Square of the day. In 
Bridge Street the rebellion of '98 was organized at the house of 
Oliver Bond ; and one night Major Swan, led by Reynolds the in- 
former, seized twelve gentlemen there, all of whom were summa- 
rily hanged as rebels. Castle Street was the focus of the rebellion 
of 1641 ; Sir Phelim O'Neill and Lord Maguire had their resi- 
dences there, and concocted together how to seize the Castle, 
destroy all the lords and council, and re-establish Popery in Ire- 
land. But a more useful man than either lived there also — Sir 
James Ware, whose indefatigable ardour in the cause of Irish 
literature caused him to collect, with great trouble and expense, a 
vast number of Irish manuscripts, which, after passing through 
many vicissitudes, are now deposited in the British Museum. The 
French family of Latouche came to Castle Street about one hun- 
dred years ago, and one of them, in 1778, upheld the shattered 
credit of the Government by a loan of £20,000 to the Lord-Lieu- 
tenant. Fishamble Street has historical and classic memories^ 
and traditions of Handel consecrate this now obscure locality. 

Handel spent a year in Dublin. His " Messiah " was composed 
there, and first performed for the benefit of Mercer's Hospital. 
How content he was with his reception is expressed in a letter to 
a friend. "I cannot," he says, i( sufficiently express the kind 
treatment I receive here, but the politeness of this generous 
nation cannot be unknown to you." 

Dublin Quays are likewise illustrated by great names. On 
Usher's Quay may still be seen the once magnificent Moira House? 
the princely residence of Lord Moira, afterwards Marquis of Hast- 
ings, Governor-General of India. A hundred years ago it was 
the Holland House of Dublin, sparkling with all the wit, splen- 
dour, rank, and influence of the metropolis. The decorations 
were unsurpassed in the kingdom for beauty and grandeur. The 
very windows w r ere inlaid with mother-o-pearl. 

After the Union, the family in disgust quitted Ireland ; Moira 
house was left tenantless for some years, and then finally was sold 
for the use of the pauper poor of Dublin. The decorations were 
removed, the beautiful gardens turned into offices, the upper story 
of the edifice was taken off, and the entire building pauperized as 
much as possible to suit its inmates and its title — " The Mendicity." 

In the good old times the Lord Mayor treated the Lord-Lieu- 
tenant to a new play every Christmas, when the Corporation 
acted Mysteries upon the stage in Hoggin Green, where the Col- 
lege now stands. The Mysteries were on various subjects. In 
one, the tailors had orders to find Pilate and his wife clothed 
accordingly; the butchers were to supply the tormentors; the 
mariners and vintners represented Noah. At that period the Lord- 
Lier tenants held their court at Kilmainham, or Thomas Court, 


for Dublin Castle was not made a viceregal residence until the 
reign of Elizabeth. The parliaments, too, were ambulatory. 
Sometimes they met in the great aisle of Christ Church, that 
venerable edifice whose echoes have been destined to give back 
such conflicting sounds. "What changes in its ritual and its wor- 
shippers ! "What scenes have passed before its high altar since 
first erected by the Danish bishop, whose body, in pallium and 
mitre, lay exposed to view but a few years since, after a sleep of 
eight hundred years. Irish kings and Norman conquerors have 
trod the aisles. There Roderick was inaugurated, the last king 
of ilreland ; there Strongbow sleeps, first of the Norman conquerors, 
and, until the middle of the last century, all payments were made 
at his tomb, as if in him alone, living or dead, the citizens had 
their strength ; there Lambert Simnel was crowned with a crown 
taken from the head of the Virgin Mary ; there Cromwell wor- 
shipped before he went forth to devastate ; there the last Stuart 
knelt in prayer before he threw the last stake at the Boyne for an 
empire ; and there William of Nassau knelt in gratitude for the 
victory, with the crown upon his head, forgotten by James in his 
ignominous flight. 

And how many rituals have risen up to heaven from that ancient 
altar, each anathema maranatha to the other — the solemn chants 
of the early church ; the gorgeous ritual of the mass ; in Elizabeth's 
time, the simple liturgy of the English Church in the English 
tongue ; this, too, was prohibited in its turn, and for ten years the 
Puritans wailed and howled against kings and liturgies in the 
ancient edifice ; there the funeral oration for the death of Crom- 
well was pronounced, entitled, " Threni Hibernici, or Ireland 
sympathizing with England for the loss of their Josiah (Oliver 
Cromwell)." Once again rose the incense of the mass while King 
James was amongst us ; but William quenched the lights on the 
altar, and established once more the English Liturgy in its sim- 
plicity and beauty. But so little, during all these changes, had 
the Irish to do with the cathedral of their capital, that by 
an Act passed in 1380 no Irishman was permitted to hold in it 
any situation or office ; and so strictly was the law enforced, that 
Sir John Stevenson was the first Irishman admitted, as even vicar- 

Many are the themes of interest to be found in Mr. Gilbert's 
" History of Dublin," concerning those ancient times when Sack- 
ville Street was a marsh, Merrion Square an exhausted quarry, 
the undulations so beautiful in its present verdant state being but 
the accident of excavation ; when St. Stephen's Green, with its 
ten fine Irish acres, was a compound of meadow, quagmire, and 
ditch ; when Mountjoy Square was a howling wilderness, and North 
Georges Street and Summer Hill were far away in the country, 
and when the Danes, rudely expelled by Norman swords from the 


south of the Liffey, were stealing over the river to found a settle- 
ment on the north side. 

Our fathers have told us of Dublin in later times, before the 
Union, when a hundred lords and two hundred commoners en- 
riched and enlivened our city with their wealth and magnificence* 
Dublin was then at the summit of its glory ; but when the colo- 
nists sold their parliament to England, and the Lords and Com- 
mons vanished, and their mansions became hospitals and poor- 
houses, and all wealth, power, influence, and magnificence were 
transferred to the loved mother country, then the " City of the 
Dark Water " sank into very pitiable insignificance. The proud 
Norman spirit of independence was broken at last, and there was 
no great principle to replace it. Having no large sympathies 
with the Irish nation, no idea of country, nationality, or any 
other grand word by which is expressed the resolve of self-reliant 
men to be self -governed, the colonists became petty, paltry, and 
selfish in aim ; imitative in manners and feelings ; apathetic, even 
antagonistic to all national advance ; bound to England by help- 
less fear and servile hope ; content so as they could rest under her 
great shadow, secure from the mysterious horrors of Popery, pre- 
served in the blessing of a church establishment, and allowed to 
worship even the shadow of transcendent Majesty. Then Dub- 
lin ambition was satisfied and happy ; for there is no word so in- 
stinctively abhorrent, so invincibly opposed to all the prejudices 
of Dublin society, as patriotism. 

From this cursory glance over the antecedents of our metropolis, 
the cause of her anti-Irishism is plainly deducible from the fact, 
that at no epoch was Dublin an Irish city. The inhabitants are 
a blended race, descended of Danes, Normans, Saxon settlers, and 
mongrel Irish. The country of their affections is England. They 
have known no other mother. With the proud old princes and 
chiefs of the ancient Irish race they have no more affinity than (to 
use Mr. Macaulay's illustration) the English of Calcutta with the 
nation of Hindustan, and from this colonial position a certain 
Dublin idiosyncrasy of character has resulted, which makes the 
capital distinct in feeling from the rest of Ireland. 

Meanwhile the destiny of the ancient race is working out, not 
m happiness or prosperity, but in stern, severe discipline. Un- 
changed and unchangeable they remain, so far as change is effected 
by impulses arising from within. " Two thousand years," says 
Moore, " have passed over the hovel of the Irish peasant in vain." 
Such as they were when the first light of history rested on them, 
they are now ; indolent and dreamy, patient and resigned as 
fatalists, fanatical as Bonzees, implacable as Arabs, cunning as 
Greeks, courteous as Spaniards, superstitious as savages, loving as 
children, clinging to the old home and the old sod and the old 
families with a tenderness that is always beautiful, sometimes 


Iteroic ; loving' to be ruled, with veneration in excess ; ready to 
die like martyrs for a creed, a party, or the idol of the hour, hut 
incapable of extending their sympathies beyond the family or the 
clan ; content with the lowest place in Europe ; stationary amid 
progression ; isolated from the European family ; without power 
or influence ; lazily resting in the past while the nations are 
wrestling in the present for the future. Children of the ocean, 
yet without commerce,* idle by thousands, yet without manu- 
factures ; gifted with quick intellect and passionate hearts, yet 
literature and art die out amongst them for want of aid or 
sympathy ; without definite aims, without energy or the earnest-, 
ness which is the vital life of heroic deeds; dark and blind through 
prejudice and ignorance, they can neither resist nobly nor endure 
wisely ; chafing in bondage, yet their epileptic fits of liberty are 
marked only by wild excesses, and end only in sullen despair. 

Yet it was not in the providence of God that the fine elements 
of humanity in such a people should still continue to waste and 
stagnate during centuries of inaction, while noble countries and 
fruitful lands, lying silent since creation, were waiting the destined 
toilers and workers, who, by the sweat of the brow, shall change 
them to living empires. 

Two terrible calamities fell upon Ireland — famine and pestilence; 
and by these two dread ministers of God's great purposes, the 
Irish race were uprooted and driven forth to fulfil their appointed 
destiny. A million of our people emigrated; a million of our 
people died under these judgments of God. Seventeen millions 
worth of property passed from time-honoured names into the 
hands of strangers. The echoes of the old tongue— call it 
Pelasgian, Phoenician, Celtic, Irish, what you will, still the oldest 
in Europe, is dying out at last along the stony plains of Mayo 
and the wild sea-cliffs of the storm-rent western shore. Scarcely 
a million and a half are left of people too old to emigrate, amidst 
roofless cabins and ruined villages, who speak that language now. 
Exile, confiscation, or death, was the final fate written on the page 
of history for the much-enduring children of Ireland. One day 
they may reassert themselves in the new world, or in other lands. 
Australia, with its skies of beauty and its pavement of gold, may 
be given to them as America to the Saxon, but how low must a 
nation have fallen at home when even famine and plague come to 
be welcomed as the levers of progression and social elevation. 
Some wise purpose of God's providence lies, no doubt, at the 
reverse side, but we have not yet turned the leaf. 

The ancient race who, thousands of years ago, left the cradle of 
the sun to track him to the ocean, are now flung on the coast of 
another hemisphere to begin once more their destined westward 
march ; and like the Israelites of old, they, too, might tell in that 
new country : " A Syrian ready to perish was our father ! " 


They fled acoss the Atlantic like a drift of autumn leaves — • 
" pestilence-stricken multitudes "■ — and the sea was furrowed by 
the dead as the plague-ships passed along. 

One would say a doom had been laid upon our people — the 
wandering Io of humanity — a destiny of weeping and unrest. 

Of old the kings at Tara sat throned with their faces to the 
west : was it a symbol or a prophecy of the future of their nation ? 
when from every hill in Ireland could be seen — 

" The remnant of our people 
Sweeping westward, wild and woful, 
Like the cloud-rack of a tempest, 
Like the withered leaves of autumn." 

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, where the Rocky Mountains bar 
like a portal the land of gold — through the islands of the Southern 
Ocean to the great desolate world of Australia, seeking as it were 
the lost home of their fathers, and doomed to make the circuit of 
the earth — still onward flows the tide of human life — that inex- 
haustible race which has cleared the forests of Canada, built the 
cities and made all the railroads of the States, given thousands to 
the red plains of the Crimea, overran California and peopled Aus- 
tralia — the race whose destiny has made them the instruments of 
all civilization, though they have never reaped its benefits. 

Yet we cannot believe that the Irish race is doomed for ever to 
work and suffer without the glory of success; for the Celtic 
element is necessary to humanity as a great factor in human pro- 
gress. It is the subtle, spiritual fire that warms and permeates 
the ruder clay of other races, giving them new, vivid, and mag- 
netic impulses to growth and expansion. 

The children of the early wanderers from the Isles of the Sea 
will still continue to fulfil their mission as world-workers and 
world-movers. Across the breadth of earth they will found new 
nations, each a greater and a stronger Ireland, where they will have 
the certainty of power, station, and reward denied them at home. 
But neither change nor progress nor the severing ocean will 
destroy the electric chain that binds them lovingly to their ancient 
mother in that true sympathy with country and kinship that ever 
burns in the Irish heart. 

The new Ireland across the seas, whether in America or in Aus- 
tralia, will still cherish with sacred devotion the beautiful legends, 
the pathetic songs, the poetry and history and the heroic tradi- 
tions of the old, well-loved country as eternal verses of the Bible 
of humanity, with all the light and music of the fanciful fairy 
period, such as I have tried to gather into a focus in these volumes, 
along with the holy memories of those martyrs of our race whose 
names are for ever associated with the words Liberty and Nation- 
hood, but whose tragic fate has illustrated so many mournful 
pages in the history of the Irish past. 


That there was a time — after u the Spirit of God moved on the 
face of the waters, and separated the dry land from the sea " — 
when the present British Isles formed a continuous and integral 
portion of the European Continent is the received opinion of the 
scientific. With that continuity of surface (whether before or 
after the glacial period matters not in the present inquiry) there 
was, we know, a uniform dispersion of vegetable and animal life 
over this portion of the globe ; and so long as this country enjoyed 
the temperature and climate it now possesses, it must have been 
an emerald land — humid, green, and fertile, affording pasturage 
and provender for the largest herbivorse — the mammoth, elephant, 
and musk ox, the reindeer, the wild boar, and perhaps even the 
woolly rhinoceros. The primitive races of horned cattle, possibly 
the red deer, and undoubtedly the largest and noblest of cervine 
creatures, the gigantic Irish deer, or Cervus megaceros, besides the 
wild pig, and smaller mammals, as well as birds and fishes in- 
numerable, must then have existed here. 

How long that condition of the land known now as Ireland 
existed, what geological revolutions occurred, or what time elapsed 
during its continuance, is but matter of speculation ; but a " repeal 
of the union " took place, and Great Britain and Ireland became 
as they now are, and as they are likely to remain, geographically 
separated, although united in interest as well as government. In 
all probability the great pine forests, with some of the yews, the 
oaks, and the birch, had at this time been submerged beneath the 
lowest strata of our bogs. 

It was after this epoch, I believe, that man first set foot upon 
the shores of Erin — a country well wooded, abundantly stocked 
with animals, and abounding in all nature's blessings suited to the 

* Extracts from the Address to the Anthropological Section of the 
British Association. Belfast, 1874. By Sir William Wilde, M.D., 
M.R.I. A., Chevalier of the Swedish Order of the North Star. 


well-being of the human race ; with fowls in its woods and on its 
shores ; fish in its seas, lakes and rivers ; deer and other game in 
its forest glades, oxen on its pastures, fuel in its bogs ; and a 
climate, although moist and variable, on the whole mild and 

Let us now go back for a moment and take a glance at the map 
of the world. The sacred writings tell us, and the investigations 
of historians, antiquarians, and philologists confirm the statement, 
that the cradle of mankind was somewhere between the Caspian 
Sea and the great River Euphrates. Without entering too 
minutely into the subject, I may state briefly that the human 
family separated in process of time into three great divisions — the 
African, the Asiatic, and the Indo-European. With the latter 
only we have to deal. As population increased, it threw off its 
outshoots ; and emigration, the great safeguard of society, and the 
ordained means of peopling as well as cultivating and civilizing 
the earth, began to impel the races and tribes still farther and 
farther from the birthplace of humanity. But in those days the 
process was somewhat slower and more gradual than that which 
now sends an Irish family across 3,500 miles of ocean in a week. 

"With but the rudest means of transit, hordes of the primitive 
races passed up the banks of the great rivers, the Euphrates, the 
Nile, the Volga, the Danube, and the Rhone ; while other tribes, 
in all likelihood more advanced and cultivated, wandered along 
the coasts, peopling as they went the northern shores of the 
Mediterranean and the Black Sea. 

That an early and uncultivated people passed up the Danube in 
their immigration, and settled for centuries on its banks, when 
Europe was a tangled wilderness, inhabited by the auroch and the 
gigantic deer, there can be no manner of doubt ; for they have left 
memorials of their existence in the unerring and enduring re- 
mains of their sepulchres, their tools, and weapons, from the 
Black Sea to Switzerland and Savoy. In Switzerland this primi- 
tive people rested for a considerable period, perhaps for many 
centuries, forming for themselves those peculiar piled lacustrine 
habitations on the shores of its picturesque inland waters, known 
as " Pf aulbauten " — the analogues, and in all probability the 
types, of the crannoges recently discovered in Ireland and Scot- 
land, to which countries the scattered fragments of that race 
finally carried this special form of domestic architecture. The 
lowest strata of implements were deposited beneath the sites of 
these pf aulbauten j and in some of the more ancient ones the only 
remains are those of stone, flint, and pottery — the former resemb- 
ling in a remarkable manner the stone tools and weapons of the 
primitive Irish. 

What the language of this early Helvetian people was, we have 
no means of ascertaining ; but that their exodus was one of haste 


and compulsion, and probably the result of invasion by a superior 
and more cultivated race, is almost certain. Driven from their 
mountain homes, they passed down the banks of the Rhine and 
the Elbe, and helped to people North-western Europe, forming 
with those who arrived coastwise the great nation of the Gauls 
and Belgae. It is not unlikely that this littoral wave of popula- 
tion carried with them the metallurgic arts ; for we find m their 
tombs and barrows on the coasts of Spain, France, and Brittany, 
bronze celts identical in shape with some of those discovered in 
our own country. 

Still passing westwards towards the setting sun, some members 
of this early people stood at length face to face with the white 
cliffs of Kent. Impelled by curiosity and the thirst for knowledge, 
man's undeviating enterprise soon sent these hardy people across 
the narrow strait that divides Britain from the continent of 
Europe, centuries before the ships of Tarshish voyaged from Tyre 
and Sidon to trade with Britain for the tin of Cornwall, to alloy, 
harden, and beautify into bronze the copper with which Solomon 
decorated the temple of Jerusalem. 

To the restless Uelt the breadth of this new possession was but 
a slight impediment to his western progress, and once more he 
looked upon the blue waters of the salt sea, and beyond them, to 
the green hills of Erin. A plank — a single-piece canoe — formed 
out of an oak-tree by fire and a sharp stone, or a wicker curragh 
covered with hides, would soon waft him from Portpatrick to 
Donaghadee, or even from Anglesea to Howth. 

Here, then, the story of our race begins, and the immediate 
object of this inquiry commences. That man, as he first stood on 
this island, was in a rude, uncultivated state, without a knowledge 
of letters or manufactures — skilled in those arts only by which, 
as a nomad hunter and fisher, he supported life and ministered to 
his simple wants — there can be no manner of doubt. Clad in the 
skins of animals he slew, which were sewn together with their 
sinews or intestines — his weapons and tools formed of flint, stone, 
bone, wood or horn — his personal decoration, shells, amber, 
attractive pebbles collected on the beach, or the teeth of animals 
strung together in a rude necklace, or bound round the wrists and 
arms ; and his religion, if any, Pagan, Sun-worship, or Druidism, 
man first stood, in all probability, on the north-eastern shores of 
Erin. It may be unpalatable to our national vanity to learn that 
the early colonists of Ireland did not come here clad in purple and 
gold direct from Phoenicia, in brazen-prowed triremes, with the 
mariner's compass and the quadrant ; or stood for the first time 
upon the shores of Hibernia armed cap-a-pied in glittering 
armour, as Minerva sprang from the front of Jove; but it is, 
nevertheless, indisputably true, that the first people were such as 
I have described them. 


No date can be assigned to the period of the first inhabitation, 
but as evidence of the primitive condition of the race it is 
sufficient to state that human bodies clad in deer-skin have been 
discovered in our bogs ; that flint weapons in abundance have 
been found all over Ireland, but especially in the North, where 
that peculiar lithological condition chiefly exists ; and that stone 
tools have been dug up in thousands all over the country, but 
more particularly from the beds of our rivers, marking the sites of 
contested fords, which were the scenes of sanguinary conflicts, as 
on the Shannon and the Bann ; and that all these are referrible to 
a period when the Irish had no knowledge of metals, and could 
neither spin nor weave. 

To Northern archaeologists belongs the credit of that theory 
which divides the ages of man according to the material evidences 
of the arts of bygone times, as into those of stone, of copper, 
gold, and bronze, and of iron and silver. While I have no doubt 
that, generally speaking, such was the usual progress of develop- 
ment m those particulars, I deny that this division can, as a rule, 
be applied to Ireland, where undoubtedly each period overlapped 
the succeeding, so as to mix the one class of implement with 
another, even as I myself have seen on the great cultivated plain 
of Tyre harrow-pins formed of flints and sharp stones stuck into 
the under surface of a broad board j and on that battle field — 

" Where Persia's victim hordes 
First bowed beneath the brunt of Hella's sword," 

I have picked up flint and obsidian arrow-heads, although we 
know that the Athenians, whose remains still lie beneath the 
tumulus of Marathon, gave way before the long-handled metallic 
spears of Asia ; and the stone missile, in one of its most formid- 
able shapes, is not yet abandoned in this country. 

I hold it as susceptible of demonstration, that man in similar 
stages of his career all over the world acts alike, so far as is 
compatible with climate, his wants, and the materials that offer 
to his hand, even from the banks of the Niger or Zambesi to the 
islands of the South Sea, or the regions inhabited by the Laps 
and Esquimaux. Thus, whenever man acquires or discovers a 
new art, he first applies it to continue the fashion of its prede- 
cessor, until accident, necessity, or ingenuity induces him to 
modify the reproduction. The first arrow-head and spear is 
almost the same all over the world, and is the type of that in 
metal ; and the stone celt or hatchet formed, as I have proved 
elsewhere, the model for the copper or bronze implement for a 
like use in both ancient Etruria and ancient Ireland. 

Discussions may arise as to whether our knowledge of metals 
was a separate, independent discovery of our own, or was acquired 


by intercourse with other nations more advanced than ourselves. 
In answer thereto I can only say that we have no evidence or 
authority for the latter supposition; and that, as we possessed 
abundant materials on the one hand, and had sufficient native 
ingenuity on the other, it is most likely that our discovery of 
metals — at least of gold, copper, and tin — was independent of 
extrinsic influence. So far removed from the centres of civiliza- 
tion, unconquered by the Koman legion, uninfluenced by Saxon 
or Frankish art, and with undoubted evidences of development 
and styles of art peculiar to ourselves, both in form and decoration, 
it is but fair, until some stronger arguments have been brought 
against it, to believe that we were the discoverers and smelters of 
our minerals, and the fabricators of our metallic weapons, tools, 
and ornaments. That some Grecian influence pervaded the early 
Irish metallurgic art, as exhibited by some of our leaf-shaped 
sword blades, is true ; but it is an exceptional instance, and the 
form is common to almost all countries in which bronze sword 
blades have been found. 

With regard to the dwellings of the early race we are not left 
to mere conjecture, for not long ago a log hut was discovered 
fourteen feet below the surface of a bog in the county of Donegal. 
This very antique dwelling was twelve feet square, and nine 
high ; and consisted of an upper and lower chamber, which were 
probably mere sleeping apartments. The oaken logs of which it 
was constructed are believed to have been hewn with stone 
hatchets, some of which were found on the premises, thus 
identifying it with the pre-metallic period of our history. Man 
soon becomes gregarious, and passes from the hunter and the 
fisher to the shepherd, and thence to the agriculturist. The 
land is cleared of wood ; the wild animals either die out, or are 
rendered subservient to his will. The domestication of animals 
in most instances precedes, and always accompanies, the pastoral 
state of existence; and to that condition the patriarchal stage 
ensues, and afterwards that of the monarchical. To such phases 
of development, from the age of escape from the rudest barbarism, 
to the most cultivated condition in government, polite literature, 
art and science, Ireland was, I believe, no exception. Of the 
shepherd state we still possess the most abundant proofs, in the 
numerous earthen raths, lisses, and forts scattered all over the 
country, and from which so many of our townlands and other 
localities take their names; but especially marking the sites of 
the primitive inhabitation on our goodly pastures, although now 
mere grassy, annular elevations, varying in area from a few perches 
to several acres, and in many instances alone preserved by the 
hallowed traditions or popular superstitions of the people. 

Such of those landmarks of the past as still remain, out of 
thousands that have been obliterated, show us that in those parts 


of Ireland, at least, where they exist, there was once a dense 
population, even during the shepherd stage of its inhabitation. 
And if in the progress of events, uncontrolled by human agency, 
and brought about by influences that we have so recently mourned 
over and still deplore, but could not prevent, we are now again 
becoming a pastoral people, we are only returning to that state of 
existence for which this country is peculiarly adapted, and was, 
I believe, originally intended — that of being the greatest grass and 
green-crop soil and climate in the world. 

The pastoral was undoubtedly the normal, one of the oldest, 
and beyond all question, the longest continued state in Ireland ; 
and, although changed by internal dissensions, invasion, confisca- 
tion, and foreign rule, is still remembered by the people among 
whom its influence, slumbering, but not dead, now and then crops 
out in questions of " tenant right." Years ago I showed, from the 
animal remains found in our forts, bogs, and crannoges, that 
centuries upon centuries before short-horned improved breeds of 
cattle and sheep commanded at our agricultural shows the 
admiration of Europe, we had here breeds of oxen which are not 
now surpassed by the best races of Holland and Great Britain ; 
and which are unequalled in the present day even by those on the 
fertile plains of Meath, Limerick, or Roscommon, or throughout 
the golden vale of Tipperary. We were then a cattle-rearing, 
flesh-eating people ; our wealth was our cattle ; our wars were for 
our cattle ; the ransom of our chieftains was in cattle ; our taxes 
were paid in cattle ; the price paid for our most valuable manu- 
scripts was so many cows. Even in comparatively modern times 
our battle cloaks were made of leather; our traffic and barter 
were the Pecuaniee of our country ; and the " Tain-bo-Cuailne/' 
the most famous metrical romance of Europe, after the " Niebe- 
lungenlied," is but the recital of a cattle raid from Oonnaught 
into Louth during the reign of Mave, Queen of Oonnaught — a 
personage transmitted to us by Shakspeare, as the Queen Mab of 
the "Midsummer Night's Dream." And, although the Anglo- 
Norman invasion is usually attributed to the love of an old, one- 
eyed, hoarse-voiced King of Leinster, sixty years of age, for 
Dervorgil (attractive, we must presume, though but little his 
junior in years), and who became the Helen of the Irish Iliad, 
when "the valley lay smiling before her," she was but an 
insignificant item in the stock abduction from the plains of 
Breffny along the boggy slopes of Shemore. 

The Boromean, or cattle tribute, which the King of Tara 
demanded from the Leinstermen, was perhaps the cause of the 
greatest intestinal feud which ever convulsed so small a space of 
European ground for so great a length of time. This triennial 
cattle tax, besides 5,000 ounces of silver, 5,000 cloaks, and 5,000 
brazen vessels, consisted of 15,000 head of cattle of different 


descriptions, the value of which, at the present price of stock, 
would amount to about £130,000. The cattle tribute also paid to 
the Prince or petty King of Cashel upwards of a thousand years 
ago was 6,500 cows, 4,500 oxen, 4,500 swine, and 1,200 sfieep ; 
in all, 16,700, or, at the present value of stock, between £80,000 
and £100,000. In addition to which we read of horses and valu- 
ables of various descriptions. 

Brian O'Kennedy, who drove the Norsemen from the shores of 
Clontarf, derived his cognomen of Borrome from his reimposition 
of this cattle tax. And in the Zeabhar-na-Garth, or ancient Book 
of Rights and Privileges of the Kings of Erin, the cattle statistics, 
as they are there set forth, show that the Irish were solely a 
pastoral people ; and the whole text and tenor of the Irish annals 
and histories, and the notices of the wars of the Desmonds and of 
O'Neil, confirm this view. 

The great raths of Ireland, where the people enclosed their 
cattle by night, have been erroneously termed " Danish forts," 
but when the shannaghees are pressed for further information as 
to the date of their erection they say, " They were made by them 
ould Danes that came over with Julius Caesar." If, however, 
inquiry be made of the old illiterate Irish-speaking population, 
they will tell you that they were made by " the good people/' and 
are inhabited by the fairies. Hence the veneration that has in a 
great measure tended to their preservation ; and I have no doubt 
that the ancient indigenous and venerated thorns that still decorate 
their slopes or summits are the veritable descendants of the 
quickset hedges that helped to form the breastworks, or staked 
defences, on their summits. 

These forts are almost invariably to be found in the fattest 
pastures ; so that if any of my friends were in the present day to 
ask me where they could best invest in land, I would fearlessly 
answer, " Wherever you find most ancient raths remaining ; " and 
I know that many of our cattle prizes have been carried off by 
sheep and oxen fed upon the grass lands cleared and fertilized by 
the early Celts more than a thousand years ago, and a sod of 
which has not been turned for centuries. They were not originally 
the gentle slopes that now diversify the surface, but consisted in 
steep ramparts or earthworks, with an external ditch, on which a 
stout paling was erected against man or beast, a form of structure 
still seen in the kraal of the New Zealander. The Irish rath- 
maker was an artificer of skill, and held in high esteem, and 
occupied a dignified position at the great feasts of Tara — second 
only to the ollamh and the physician. That the soil of which 
they were constructed had been not only originally rich, but had 
been subjected to man's industry, is proved by the fact that it is 
now frequently turned out upon the neighbouring sward as one of 
the best of manures. Within these raths, some of which had 


double, and even treble entrenchments, were erected the dwellings 
of the people and their chiefs, the latter of whom were often 
interred within the mounds, or beneath the cromlechs that still 
exist in their interior, as, for example, in the " Giant's Ring," near 
Belfast. In some instances they also contained in their sides and 
centres stone caves, that were probably used as store-houses, 
granaries, or places of security. 

The earliest historic race of Ireland was a pastoral people called 
Firbolgs, said to be of Greek or Eastern origin ; probably a branch 
of that great Celtic race which, having passed through Europe 
and round its shores, found a resting-place at last in Ireland. Of 
the Fomorians, Nemedians, and other minor invaders, we need not 
speak, as they have left nothing by which to track their footsteps. 
The old annalists bring them direct from the Ark, and in a straight 
line from Japhet. The coming of Pharaoh's daughter from Egypt 
with her ships may be also considered apocryphal. But the Fir- 
bolgs begin our authentic history. They had laws and social 
institutions, and established a monarchical government at the far- 
famed Hill of Tara, about which our early centres of civilization 
sprung, and where we have now most of those great pasture- 
lands — those plains of Meath that can beat the world for their 
fattening qualities, and which supply neighbouring countries with 
their most admired meats. 

I cannot say that the Firbolg was a cultivated man, but I think 
he was a shepherd and an agriculturist. I doubt if he knew any- 
thing, certainly not much, of metallurgy ; but it does not follow 
that he was a mere savage, no more than the Maories of New 
Zealand were when we first came in contact with them. 

The Firbolgs were a small, straight-haired, swarthy race, who 
have left a portion of their descendants with us to this very day. 
A genealogist (their own countryman resident in Galway about 
two hundred years ago) described them as dark-haired, talkative, 
guileful, strolling, unsteady, "disturbers of every Council and 
Assembly," and " promoters of discord." I believe they, together 
with the next two races about to be described, formed the bulk of 
our so-called Celtic population — combative, nomadic on oppor- 
tunity, enduring, litigious, but feudal and faithful to their chiefs ; 
hard-working for a spurt (as in their annual English emigration) ; 
not thrifty, but, when their immediate wants are supplied, lazy, 
especially during the winter. 

To these physical and mental characters described by MacFirbis 
let me add those of the unusual combination of blue or blue-grey 
eyes and dark eyelashes with a swarthy complexion. This pecu- 
liarity I have only remarked elsewhere in Greece ; the mouth and 
upper gum is not good, but the nose is usually straight. In many 
of this and the next following race there was a peculiarity that 
has not been alluded to by writers — the larynx, or, as it used to 


be called, the pomum Adami, was remarkably prominent, and 
became more apparent from the uncovered state of the neck. The 
sediment of this early people still exists in Ireland, along with the 
fair-complexioned Dananns, and forms the bulk of the farm^ 
labourers, called in popular phraseology Spalpeens, that yearly 
emigrate to England. In Oonnaught they now chiefly occupy a 
circle which includes the junction of the counties of Mayo, Gal- 
way, Roscommon, and Sligo. They, with their fair-faced brothers 
(at present the most numerous), are also to be found in Kerry and 
Donegal : and they nearly all speak Irish. 

By statistics procured from our Great Midland Western Railway 
alone I learn that on an average 30,000 of these people, chiefly 
the descendants of the dark Firbolgs and the fair Dananns, emi- 
grate annually to England for harvest work, to the great advan- 
tage of the English farmer and the Irish landlord. The acreage 
of arable land for these people runs from two to six acres. 

Connecting this race with the remains of the past, I am of 
opinion that they were the first rath or earthen-mound and 
enclosure makers ; that they^ mostly buried their dead without 
cremation, and, in cases of distinguished personages, beneath the 
cromlech or the tumulus. Their heads were oval or long in the 
anteroposterior diameter, and rather flattened at the sides : 
examples of these I have given and descanted upon when I first 
published my Ethnological Researches, which have been fully 
confirmed by the late Andreas Retzius. It is, however, unneces- 
sary, even if space or advisability permitted, for me to allude to 
such matters, as that great work the " Crania Britannica" has 
lithographed typical specimens of this long-headed race. 

The next immigration we hear of in the " Annals " is that of 
the Tuatha-de-Dananns, a large, fair-complexioned, and very 
remarkable race ; warlike, energetic, progressive, skilled in metal 
work, musical, poetical, acquainted with the healing art, skilled 
in Druidism, and believed to be adepts in necromancy and magic, 
no doubt the result of the popular idea respecting their superior 
knowledge, especially in smelting and in the fabrication of tools, 
weapons, and ornaments. From these two races sprang the Fairy 
Mythology of Ireland. 

It is strange that, considering the amount of annals and legends 
transmitted to us, we have so little knowledge of Druidism or 
Paganism in ancient Ireland. However, it may be accounted for 
in this wise : That those who took down the legends from the 
mouths of the bards and annalists, or those who subsequently 
transcribed them, were Christian missionaries whose object wa8 
to obliterate every vestige of the ancient forms of faith. 

The Dananns spoke the same language as their predecessors, 
the Firbolgs. They met and fought for the sovereignty. The 
" man of metal " conquered and drove a great part of the others 



into the islands on the coast, where it is said the Firbolg race 
took their last stand. Eventually, however, under the influence 
of a power hostile to them both, these two people coalesced, and 
have to a large extent done so up to the present day. They are 
the true old Irish peasant and small farming class. 

The Firbolg was a bagman, so called, according to Irish 
authorities, because he had to carry up clay in earthen bags to 
those terraces in Greece now vine-clad. As regards the other 
race there is more difficulty in the name. Tuath or Tuatha 
means a tribe or tribe-district in Irish. Danann certainly sounds 
very Grecian ; and if we consider their remains, we find the 
long, bronze, leaf-shaped sword, so abundant in Ireland, identical 
with weapons of the same class found in Attica and other parts 
of Greece. 

Then, on the other hand, their physiognomy, their fair or 
reddish hair, their size, and other circumstances, incline one to 
believe that they came down from Scandinavian regions after 
they had passed up as far as they thought advisable into North- 
western Europe. If the word Dane was known at the time of 
their arrival here, it would account for the designation of many 
of our Irish monuments as applied by Molyneux and others. 
Undoubtedly the Danann tribes presented Scandinavian features, 
but did not bring anything but Grecian art. After the u Stone 
period," so called, of which Denmark and the south of Sweden offer 
such rich remains, I look upon the great bulk of the metal work of 
the North, especially in the swords in the Copenhagen and Stock- 
holm Museums, as Asiatic ; while Ireland possesses not only the 
largest native collection of metal weapon-tools, usually denomina- 
ted " celts," of any country in the world, but the second largest 
amount of swords and battle-axes. And moreover these, and all 
our other metal articles, show a well-defined rise and develop- 
ment from the simplest and rudest form in size and use to that of 
the most elaborately constructed and the most beautifully 

I believe that these Tuatha-de-Dananns, no matter from whence 
they came, were, in addition to their other acquirements, great 
masons, although not acquainted with the value of cementing 
materials. I think they were the builders of the great stone 
Cahirs, Duns, Oashels, and Caves'; in Ireland ; while their prede- 
cessors constructed the earthen works, the raths, circles, and forts 
that diversify the fields of Erin. The Dananns anticipated 
Shakespeare's grave-digger, for they certainly made the most 
lasting sepulchral monuments that exist in Ireland, such, for 
example, as New Grange, Douth, Knowth, and Slieve-na-Calleagh 
and other great cemeteries. Within the interior and around 
these tombs were carved, on unhewn stones, certain archaic 
markings, spires, volutes, convolutes, lozenge-shaped devices, 


straight, zigzag, and curved lines, and incised indentations, and a 
variety of other insignia, which, although not expressing language, 
were symholical, and had an occult meaning known only to the 
initiated. These markings, as well as those upon the urns, were 
copied in the decorations of the gold and bronze work of a some- 
what subsequent period. The Dananns conquered the inferior 
tribes in two celebrated pitched battles, those of the Northern 
and Southern Moytura. On these fields we still find the caves, 
the stone circles, the monoliths, and dolmans or cromlechs that 
marked particular events, and the immense cairns that were 
raised in honour of the fallen chieftains. 

Although many of the warriors of the Firbolgs fled to their 
island fastnesses on the coasts of Galway and Donegal, no doubt 
a large portion of them remained in the inland parts of the 
country, and in that very locality to which I have adverted, 
which is almost midway between the sites of the two battles, in 
a line stretching between Mayo and Sligo, where in time the two 
races appear to have coalesced by that natural law which brings 
the dark and the fair together. 

Moreover it has been recorded that the conquering race sent 
their small dark opponents into Connaught, while they themselves 
took possession of the rich lands further east, and not only estab- 
lished themselves at Tara but spread into the south. It is re- 
markable that in time large numbers of the Dananns themselves 
were banished to the West, and likewise that the last forcible 
deportation of the native Irish race (so late as the seventeenth 
century) was when the people of this province got the choice of 
going " to Connaught or Hell," in the former of which, possibly, 
they joined some of the original stock. The natural beauty of 
the lakes and mountains of Connaught remains as it was thousands 
of years ago; but no doubt if some of the legislators of the 
period to which I have already referred could now behold its fat 
pasture-plains, they might prefer them to the flax lands of 

These Dananns had a globular form of head, of which I have 
already published examples. For the most part I believe they 
burned their dead or sacrificed to their manes, and placed an urn 
with its incinerated contents — human or animal — in the grave, 
where the hero was either stretched at length or crouched in an 
attitude similar to that adopted by the ancient Peruvians, as I 
have elsewhere explained. These Irish urns, which are the 
earliest relics of our ceramic art that have come down to the 
present time, are very graceful in form, and some of them most 
beautifully decorated, as may be seen in our various museums. 

Specimens of this Danann race still exist, but have gradually 
mixed with their forerunners to the present day. Here is what 
old MacFirbis wrote of them two hundred years ago : " Every one 

0*3 _2 


who is fair-haired, vengeful, large, and every plunderer, professors 
of musical and entertaining performances, who are adepts of 
Druidical and magical arts, they are the descendants of the 
Tuatha~de-Dananns " They were not only fair but sandy in many 
instances, and consequently extensively freckled. 

It is affirmed that the Dananns ruled in Ireland for a long time, 
until another inroad was made into the island by the Milesians — 
said to be brave, chivalrous, skilled in war, good navigators, 
proud, boastful, and much superior in outward adornment as well 
as mental culture, but probably not better armed than their 
opponents. They deposed the three last Danann kings and their 
wives, and rose to be, it is said, the dominant race — assuming the 
sovereignty, becoming the aristocracy and landed proprietors of 
the country, and giving origin to those chieftains that afterwards 
rose to the title of petty kings, and from whom some of the best 
families in the land with anything like Irish names claim descent, 
and particularly those with the prefix of the " O " or the " Mac." 
When this race arrived in Ireland I cannot tell, but it was some 
time prior to the Christian era. It is said they came from the 
coast of Spain, where they had long remained after their Eastern 

U pon the site of what is believed to be the ancient Brigantium, 
now the entrance to the united harbours of Corunna and Ferrol, 
stands the great lighthouse known to all ships passing through 
the Bay of Biscay. Within this modern structure still exists the 
celebrated " Pharos of Hercules," which I investigated and 
described many years ago. That tower, it was said in meta- 
phorical language, commanded a view of Ireland, and as such 
became the theme of Irish poems and legends. Certain it is that 
sailing north or north-westward from it the ships of the sons of 
Milesius and their followers could have reached Ireland without 
much coasting. If the story of Breogan's Tower is true, then it 
must have been erected in the time of lime-and-mortar building, 
and that is during the Roman occupation of Iberia and Gaul. How 
many thousands, rank and file, of these Spanish Milesians came 
here in their six or eight galleys and tried the fortunes of war 
from " the summit of the ninth wave from the shore " and con- 
quered the entire Danann, Firbolg, and Fomorian population, I am 
unable to give the slightest inkling of, no more than I can of 
the so-called Phoenician intercourse with this country. Perhaps 
without going into the fanciful descriptions of the "Battle of 
Ventry Harbour," or the southern conquest of Ireland by the 
Iberian Milesians, we may find some more trustworthy illustra- 
tions of Spanish dwellings in the architecture of the town of 
Gal way, and some picturesque representatives in the Tthe upright 
figures and raven-haired, but blue-eyed maidens of the City of 
che Tribes. Here is what old MacFirbis, who, I suppose, claimed 


descent from the sons of Milesius, wrote about them: u Every- 
one who is white of skin, brown of hair, bold, honourable, daring, 
prosperous, bountiful in the bestowal of property, and who is not 
afraid of battle or combat, they are the descendants of the sons of 
Milesius in Erin." 

This high panegyric is only equalled by the prose and verse 
compositions of the ancient bards and rhymers and the modern 
historians, who have recorded the deeds of the great warriors, 
Ith, Heber, and Heremon, whose descendants boast to have been 
the rulers of the land. Even Moore, although he wrote such 
beautiful lyrics concerning this race in his early days, yet when 
he came to study history, he felt the same difficulty I do now. 
I do not dispute their origin or supremacy; but I fail to 
distinguish their early customs, their remains, or race from those 
of the Firbolgs or Dananns whom they conquered, and who left 
undoubted monuments peculiar to their time. 

Now all these people — the piratical navigator along our coasts, 
the mid-Europe primitive shepherd and cultivator, the Northern 
warrior, and the Iberian ruler — were, according to my view, all 
derived from the one Celtic stock. They spoke the same language, 
and their descendants do so still. When they acquired a know- 
ledge of letters they transmitted their history through the Irish 
language. No doubt they fused ; but somehow a quick fusion of 
races has not been the general characteristic of the people of this 
country. Unlike the Anglo-Norman in later times, the Milesian 
was a long way from home ; the rough sea of the Bay of Biscay 
rolled between him and his previous habitat ; and if he became an 
absentee he was not likely to find much of his possessions on his 
return. It is to be regretted that while we have here such a 
quantity of poetical and traditional material respecting the 
Milesian invasion of Ireland, the Spanish annals or traditions 
have given us but very little information on that subject. 

It would be most desirable if the Government or some Irish 
authority would send a properly instructed commissioner to 
investigate the Spanish annals, and see whether there is anything 
relating to the Spanish migrations to Ireland remaining in that 

Besides the sparse introduction of Latin by Christian mission- 
aries in the fifth century, some occasional Saxon words springing 
from peaceful settlers along our coasts and in commercial 
emporiums, and whatever Danish had crept into our tongue 
around those centres where the Scandinavians chiefly located 
themselves, and which were principally proper names of persons 
and places that became fixed in our vernacular, we find but one 
language among the Irish people until the arrival of the Anglo- 
Normans at the end of the twelfth century. 

The linguistic or philological evidence on this subject is clearly 


decisive. The residue of the early races already described spoke 
one language, called Gaelic ; so did the Scotch, the Welsh, and 
probably, in early times, the Britons and the Bretons. It was not 
only the popular conversational tongue used in the ordinary 
intercourse of life, but it was also employed in genealogies, 
annals, and other records in a special character, not quite peculiar 
to this country, but then common in Europe. Much has been 
said about the necessity for a glossary of our ancient MSS., such 
as those at Saint Gall, in Trinity College, in the Royal Irish 
Academy, and in Belgian and English libraries; but there are 
very few ancient languages that do not require to be glossed in 
the present day, even as the words of Chaucer do. 

The Government are now, under the auspices of our Master of 
the Rolls, and the special direction and supervision of Mr. J. T. 
Gilbert, giving coloured photographs of some of our ancient 
writings, and have promised that some of our remaining 
manuscripts will be translated. I see no occasion now for waiting 
for more elaborated philological dictionaries or glossaries while 
there are still some few Irish scholars in this country capable of 
giving a free but tolerably literal translation of these records 
that do not require any great acumen in rendering them into 
English. Is history to wait upon the final decision of philologists 
respecting a word or two in a manuscript, and to decide as to 
whether it may be of Sanscrit or any other origin ? 

No doubt some of my hearers may ask, What about the Oghams 
(or Ohams) ? do they not show a very early knowledge of an 
alphabet ? As yet this is a moot question. A rude pillar-stone, 
having upon it a tolerably straight edge, was in early times notched 
along its angle which served as a stem-line by nicks formed on it, 
and straight or oblique lines, singly or in clusters, proceeding 
from the stem. The decipherers of these inscriptions have, one 
and all, agreed upon the fact that these lines represented letters, 
syllables, or words, and that the language is either Irish or 
Latin. Therefore the persons who made them must have been 
aware of alphabetic writing and grammar. These carved mono- 
liths are chiefly found in Kerry and Cork. Upon some of them 
Christian emblems are figured. The incising of the stone has 
evidently been performed by some rude instrument, either a flint 
or metallic pick ; and it is remarkable that these pillars present 
scarcely any amount of dressing. 

In Connaught, in my youth, the exception in remote district! 
was where the person spoke both English and Irish. In 1851, 
when we first took a census of the Irish-speaking population, 
after the country had lost three-quarters of a million of people, 
chiefly of the Irish race, we had then (to speak in round numbers) 
one and a half millions of Irish-speaking population. In 1861 
they had fallen off by nearly half a million j and upon the taking 


of the last census in 1871 the entire Irish-speaking population 
was only 817,865. The percentages, according to the total 
population in our different provinces, were these : in Leinster 1'2, 
in Munster 27'7, in Ulster 4*6, and in Oonnaught 39*0 ; for the 
total of Ireland 15*1. Kilkenny and Louth are the counties of 
Leinster where the language is most spoken. In Munster they 
are Kerry, Clare, and Waterford ; In Ulster, Donegal, where 28 
per cent, of the population speak Irish ; hut in Oonnaught, to 
which I have already alluded as containing the remnant of the 
early Irish races, we have no less than 56 per cent, of Irish- 
speaking population in the counties of Mayo and Galway 
respectively. Of my own knowledge I can attest that a great 
many of these people cannot speak English. We thus see that of 
the population of Ireland, which in the present day might be 
computed at about five and a half millions, there were, at the 
time of taking the census in April, 1871, only 817,865; and I 
think I may prophesy that that is the very largest number that 
in future we will ever have to record. On the causes of this 
decadence it is not my province to descant. These Celts have 
been the great pioneers of civilization, and are now a power in 
the world. Are they not now numerically the dominant race in 
America? and have they not largely peopled Australia and New 
Zealand ? 

We have now arrived at a period when you might naturally 
expect the native annalist to make some allusion to conquest or 
colonization by the then mistress of the world. Without offering 
any reason for it, I have here only to remark that neither as 
warriors nor colonizers did the Romans ever set foot in Ireland ; 
and hence the paucity of any admixture of Roman art amongst us. 

To fill up a hiatus which might here occur in our migrations, I 
will mention a remarkable circumstance. A Christian youth of 
Romano-Saxon parentage, and probably of patrician origin, was 
carried off in a raid of Irish marauders, and employed as a swine- 
herd in this very Ulster, the country of the Dalaradians, and 
lived here for several years, learning our customs and speaking 
our language. He escaped, however, to Munster, and thence to 
his native land of Britain or Normandy, from whence he returned 
in a.d. 432 with friends, allies, and missionaries, and passing in 
his galley into the mouth of the Boyne, walked up the banks of 
that famed stream, raised the paschal fire at Slane, and speedily 
introduced Christianity throughout Ireland. 

In thus briefly alluding to the labours of St. Patrick, I wish to 
be understood to say that about the time of his mission there was 
much Saxon intercourse with this country, and the great mission- 
ary had not only many friends but several relatives residing here, 
and some of them on the very banks of the Boyne ; and I believe 
that a considerable amount of civilization and some knowledge of 


Christianity had been introduced long previously ; so that, although 
old King Laoghaire or Loury and his Druids did not bow the 
knee to the Most High God, nor accept the teaching of the beauti- 
ful hymn that Patrick and his attendants chanted as they passed 
up the grassy slopes of Tara, still there were many hundred people 
in Ireland ready to receive the glad tidings of the gospel of 

Having finished with the Milesians, we now come to the Danes 
(so-called), the Scandinavians or Norsemen — the pagan Sea-Kings 
who made inroads on our coasts, despoiled our churches and monas- 
teries, but at the same time, it must be confessed, helped to 
establish the commercial prosperity of some of our cities and 
towns from 795 to the time of the battle of Clontarf, a.d. 1014, 
when the belligerent portion of the Scandinavians were finally- 
expelled the country. Daring the time I have specified, Dublin, 
Limerick, and Waterford belonged to these Northern people. 
They not only coasted round the island and never lost an oppor- 
tunity of pillage and plunder, but they passed through the interior 
and carried their arms into the very centre of the land. The 
Danes left us very little ornamental work beyond what they 
lavished upon their swords and helmets ; but, on the other hand, 
it should be borne in mind that there are no Irish antiquities, 
either social, warlike, or ecclesiastical, in the Scandinavian 

Concerning their ethnological characters, I must again refer to 
the " Crania Britannica." In the records they were designated 
strangers, foreigners, pagans, gentiles, and also white and black 
foreigners, so that there were undoubtedly two races — the dark, and 
the fair or red, like as in the case of the Firbolgs or Dananns. 
They were also styled "Azure Danes," probably on account of the 
shining hue of their armour, 

I believe the fair section of that people to have been of Nor- 
wegian origin, while the dark race came from Jutland and the 
coast of Sweden ; and both by the Orkneys, the coasts of Scotland, 
and the Isle of Man. Their skulls were large and well formed ; they 
had a thorough knowledge of metal work, and especially iron ; and, 
as I have shown elsewhere, their swords and spears were of great 
size and power, the former wielded as a slashing weapon, while 
those of their early opponents were of bronze, weak, and intended 
for stabbing. In nowhere else in Europe (that I am aware of) 
have these rounded, pointed, or bevelled heavy iron swords been 
found except in Ireland and Norway. 

Large quantities of Danish remains have been discovered in 
deep sinkings made in Dublin ; and several weapons, tools, and 
ornaments, believed to be of Scandinavian origin, have been found 
within a few inches of the surface on one of the battle-fields on 
the south side of the Liffey, within the last few years. Upon 


most of these I have already reported and given illustrations. I 
may mention one circumstance connected with this race. I never 
examined a battle-field of the Danes, nor a collection of Danish 
weapons or implements, that I did not find the well-adjusted 
scales and weights which the Viking had in his pocket for valu- 
ing the precious metals he procured either by conquest or other- 

Although considered hostile, these Scandinavian Vikings must 
have fraternized with the Irish. We know that they inter- 
married ; for, among many other instances that might be adduced, 
I may mention that during the battle of Olontarf, when Sitric, 
the Danish king of Dublin, looked on the fight from the walls of 
the city, he was accompanied by his wife, the daughter of the 
aged king known as " Brian the Brave." 

When, however, the Irish chieftains were not fighting with one 
another, they were often engaged in petty wars with the Scan- 
dinavians, who, in turn, were attacked by their own countrymen, 
the " Black Gentiles/' especially on the plain of Fingall, stretching 
from Dublin to the Boyne, and which the white race chiefly occu- 
pied. It must not be supposed that the battle of Olontarf ended 
the Danish occupation of Ireland; they still held the cities of 
Dublin, Limerick, and Waterford at least, and largely promoted 
the commercial prosperity in these localities — a prosperity which 
has not quite yet departed. I should like to present you with 
some remains of the Scandinavian language in Ireland, but the 
materials are very scanty. 

We are now coming to a later period. The Romans had occupied 
Britain, the Saxons followed ; the Danes had partial possession 
for a time ; the Heptarchy prevailed until Harold, the last of the 
Saxon kings, fell at Hastings, and England bowed beneath that 
mixture of Norman, Gaulish, Scandinavian, and general Celtic 
blood that William brought with him from the shores of France. 
The Saxon dynasty was at an end, but the Britons of the day ac- 
cepted their fate; and not only the soldiers, but the Norman 
barons fused with the people of that kingdom, and largely con- 
tributed to make it what it now is. This fusion of races, this 
assimilation of sentiments, this interchange of thought, this 
kindly culture, the higher elevating the lower, among whom they 
permanently reside, must always tend to great and good ends in 
raising a people to a nobler intellectual state. 

The Anglo-Normans came nere m 1172, a very mixed race, but 
their leaders were chiefly of French or Norman extraction. Why 
they came, or what they did, it is not for me to expatiate upon. 
I wish, however, to correct an assertion commonly made, to the 
effect that the Norman barons of Henry II. then conquered 
Ireland. They occupied some towns, formed a "Pale," levied 
taxes, sent in soldiery, distributed lands, and introduced a new 


language ; but the " King's writ did not run ; " the subjugation of 
Ireland did not extend over the country at large, and it remained 
till 1846 and the Hyq or six following years to complete the con- 
quest of the Irish race, by the loss of a tuberous esculent and the 
Governmental alteration in the value of a grain of corn. Then 
there went to the workhouse or exile upwards of two millions of 
the Irish race, besides those who died of pestilence. Having 
carefully investigated and reported upon this last great European 
famine, I have come to the conclusion just stated, without 
taking into consideration its political, religious, or national 

It appears to me that one of our great difficulties in Ireland 
has been the want of fusion — not only of races, but of opinions 
and sentiments, in what may be called a " give and take " system. 
As regards the intermixture, I think there cannot be a better one 
than the Saxon with the Celt. The Anglo-Normans, however, 
partially fused with the native Irish; for Strongbow married 
Eva the daughter of King Dermot ; and from this marriage it 
has been clearly shown that Her Most Gracious Majesty the 
present Queen of Ireland and Great Britain is lineally descended. 
Several of the noble warriors who came over about that period 
have established great and widespread names in Ireland, among 
whom I may mention the Geraldines in Leinster, the De Burgos 
in Connaught, and the Butlers in Munster ; and they and their 
descendants became, according to the old Latin adage, "more 
Irish than the Irish themselves." 

Look what the intermixture of races has done for us in Ireland ; 
the Firbolg brought us agriculture ; the Danann the chemistry 
and mechanics of metal work ; the Milesians beauty and governing 
power ; the Banes commerce and navigation ; the Anglo-Normans 
chivalry and organized government,- and, in later times, the 
French emigrants taught us an improved art of weaving. 

It would be more political than ethnological were I to enter 
upon the discussion of that subsequent period which would con- 
duct us to the days of Cromwell or the Boyne, or, perhaps, to 
later periods, involving questions not pertinent to the present 

But I must here say a word or two respecting Irish art. In 
architecture, in decorative tone-work, from archaic markings that 
gave a tone and character to all subsequent art, in our beauteous 
crosses, in our early metal work, in gold and bronze, carried on 
from the pagan to the Christian period, and in our gorgeously 
illuminated MS. books, we have got a style of art that is specially 
and peculiarly Irish, and that has no exact parallel elsewhere, 
and was only slightly modified by Norman or Frankish design. 

Time passed, and events accumulated ; political affairs inter- 
mingle, but the anthropologist should try and keep clear of them. 


At the end of the reign of Elizabeth a considerable immigration 
of English took place into the South of Ireland. Subsequently 
the historic episode of the " Flight of the Earls/' O'Neil and 
O'Donnell, brought matters to a climax ; and the early part of the 
reign of the first James is memorable for the " Plantation of Ulster," 
when a number of Celtic Scots with some Saxons returned to 
their brethren across the water ; and about the same time the 
London companies occupied large portions of this fertile province, 
and the early Irish race were transplanted by the Protector to the 
"West, as I have already stated. It must not be imagined that 
this was the first immigration. The Picts passed through Ireland, 
and no doubt left a remnant behind them. And in consequence 
of contiguity, the Scottish people must early have settled upon 
our northern coasts. When the adventurous Edward Bruce made 
that marvellous inroad into Ireland at the end of the fourteenth 
century and advanced into the bowels of the land, he carried with 
him a Gaelic population cognate with our own people, and in all 
probability left a residue in Ulster, thus leavening the original 
Firbolgs, Tuatha-de-Danann, and Milesians, with the exception of 
the county of Donegal, which still holds a large Celtic population 
speaking the old Irish tongue, and retaining the special characters 
of that people as I have already described them. This Scotic 
race, as it now exists in Ulster, and of which we have specimens 
before us, I would sum up with three characteristics. That they 
were courageous is proved by their shutting the gates and de- 
fending the walls of Derry ; that they were independent and lovers 
of justice has been shown by their establishment of tenant right ; 
and that they were industrious and energetic is manifest by the 
manufacturers of Belfast. Do not, I entreat my brethren of 
Ulster, allow these manufactures to be jeopardized, either by 
masters or men, by any disagreements, which must lead to the 
decay of the fairest and wealthiest province and one of the most 
beautiful cities in this our native land. 









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